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Weekend B.O. Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 (What Happened To ‘Nativity’?)

Weekend B.O. Nov. 29 - Dec. 1 (What Happened To 'Nativity'?)

The juggernaut that is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, or as I call it, “Most Dangerous Game meets Battle Royale 1 & 2 meets Rollerball (the 1975 original and not
the crummy remake with LL Cool J)” is

The film grossed  $74.5 million over the weekend – $14.9 million of that was on Thanksgiving Day, making it the highest box office gross ever on that day, for any film, beating the previous record holder, Toy Story 2. To date, the film has grossed
almost $300 million in the U.S. since its Nov. 22 release, and is well
past the half the billion mark, with $573

And there’s still an entire month, as well as the Xmas and New Year holidays ahead, which puts it on pace to be the highest grossing film of
the year domestically. Like I said it’s a juggernaut.

And if that wasn’t enough, Disney’s animated film Frozen opened right on Catching Fire’s heels, grossing over $66 million for some $93
in just over a week.

Not surprisingly, other films struggled going up against that
tough one-two combination, such as the Jason Staham/James
actioner Homefront, which made just under $10 million.

Although Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, which opened on only 4 screens, grossed $100,306, with a decent per screen average of $25,076.

And The Best Man
fared pretty well, coming in at fourth place, with a smaller than excepted
drop off, earning around $8.5 million
for a $63 million total overall.

However, faring worse was Spike Lee’s remake, or “reinterpretation as he calls it, of
Chan-wook Park’s 2003 Korean
thriller Oldboy, which came in at 17th place, grossing a dismal $1.25 million, but its fate was signed and
sealed months before.

Why FilmDistrict
moved the film’s original release date from mid-October to the Thanksgiving
holiday is still a mystery, since, typically, audiences aren’t really in the mood for such an ultra
violent, perverse and disturbing film during this time of the year. Not exactly holiday cheer.

And the fact the film opened in less than 600 screens could be a big clue that
FilmDistrict had little faith in the film. So why then did they bother to pick
it up for distribution in the first place?

But the shocker, at least to me, is the dreadful opening
of Black Nativity, which grossed a
tragic $5 million
over the holiday weekend, with the second lowest per screen average of all the new releases after Oldboy. 

Of course it was going up against some tough competition,
but I still figured that the film would do at least twice that, with a
respectable $10 million, which would
have been good news for the modestly budgeted $17 million film.

So what in hell happened? I can only make a few guesses.

1 – Bad
marketing or none
– It wasn’t the greatest you have to admit. Where
there any TV or radio spots for the film? Despite the mostly very positive reviews, the film got stuck with a bland poster that said nothing, and the trailer made
the film look like a very old fashioned, cornball picture, which also didn’t
give a real idea of what the film was. Was it a musical, a drama or none of
those? And seeing Mary J. Blige with
wings and that awful white afro wig sure didn’t help matters at all.

Also, might the PR campaign have been so inept that audiences didn’t even know the film was out? I had a conversation just a few days ago with
someone who was actually interested in seeing the film, but he had no idea that it had been released last week.

2 – Bad
– Deciding on when to release a holiday themed film is a tricky
thing. Too early or too late can seriously hurt its chances. Perhaps Tambay
said it best to me, when he shared that, “the timing of its release just wasn’t good.
Not that it would’ve been a hit movie if they’d moved it, but I think it
would’ve done better if they opened it next weekend. I know they probably
thought opening it right before Thanksgiving was a good idea, but next weekend
is wide open in terms of competition.

3 – Lack
of box office power
– Yes, he just came off a huge box office
hit with The Butler, but Forest Whitaker, as well as Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson, though they are all very well respected and liked,
are just not actors who would be considered box office powerhouses. And no one is going to
see a movie because Nas is in it.
Maybe a few high profile b.o. names could have helped, especially since the
film was a bit tricky to sell to an audience.

Would more high profile singers in the cast such as Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey have helped? Not very likely either.

4 – Title
turn off
– Movies titles can make or break a film, so is it
possible that the title, Black Nativity, completely turned off audiences? For white
people, it clearly said that “This is not for you, you wouldn’t  understand it even if Soledad O’Brien
explained it to you, so go away and watch Catching Fire instead.

But could it have turned off black audiences as well? Did
the title of the film make it sound like a Xmas movie that was too “aggressively black” even for black
audiences? It might have worked just fine back during the “Black Power” 1970’s, but in this day and age, maybe not so much – especially with younger viewers.

5 – Waiting
for the other one
– There was no pretense that Black Nativity
was a “crossover” movie that would
appeal to everyone. It was a black Christmas themed movie, written and directed
by a black filmmaker and aimed specifically for a black audience. Even the
title alone says that. That’s all wonderful. But unfortunately there’s another
black Christmas themed movie, written and directed by a black filmmaker aimed specifically
for a black audience, that will be released in a couple of weeks. Of course, I’m taking about A Madea Christmas (which is, by the way, being heavily advertised
on TV). 
And maybe the film-going audience decided that if they have to pick
only one black
Christmas themed movie to see this season, it’s that one, and they’ll rather wait until it comes out.

Also with A Madea Christmas, there’s a “safety” factor involved, in that you know exactly what you’re going
to get. Another Madea movie just exactly like all the other Madea movies that
have been made, except it takes place during Christmas, and there’s a comfort
in that for a lot of people.

Black Nativity, especially the way it was marketed as
I’ve just mentioned, was too “risky.” Audiences weren’t exactly quite sure of what
they would be getting.

And 12 Years A
continues to hold on in the top ten with over $33 million to date; and I still predict, as I did last week, that the film will do between $46-50 million domestically.

1) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire LGF $74,500,000 Total: $296,500,000 
2) Frozen  BV $66,713,000 Total: $93,013,000 
3) Thor: The Dark World BV $15,493,000  Total: $186,712,000  
4) The Best Man Holiday Uni. $8,491,000 Total: $63,414,000
5) Homefront ORF $6,970,000 Total: $9,795,000 
6) Delivery Man BV $6,931,000 Total: $19,453,000 
7) The Book Thief Fox $4,850,000 Total: $7,856,000 
8) Black Nativity FoxS $3,880,000 Total: $5,000,000 
9) Philomena Wein. $3,789,000 Total: $4,754,000 
10) 12 Years a Slave FoxS $3,025,000 Total: $33,143,000  
11) Last Vegas CBS $2,785,000 Total: $58,722,000 

12) Gravity WB $2,605,000 otal: $249,747,000   

This Article is related to: Box Office and tagged



I must admit when I first saw the trailer, I wasn't eager to see it, mainly because I'm not attracted to musicals. Secondly I was also put off by yet another young musician, Jacob Latimore trying to break into acting with little to no experience, (i.e. Chris Brown, Trey Songz, and even Jennifer Hudson.) To be honest my only reasoning to go see the film would be because my girl Angela Basset is in it, but I would have to agree that she wouldn't be considered a "box office powerhouse."

There was little to no advertising, especially in the black church, which would be the most appropriate and accessible place to promote a film of this type. My church, a mega-church located in Chicago, rallied up groups of almost 500 to go to the theatre to view 12 Years A Slave, but oddly enough haven't mentioned anything about Black Nativity.

Geneva Girl

I saw the stage play Black Nativity a few years back and enjoyed it. The trailer did not make the movie look as much fun as the play. BN might have played better as a television special, but it should do better on DVD.

Lauren B

Hey @CareyCarey, you can add another aspect that was noticeably missing on this film: the black "tastemakers" in film, entertainment, religion, social media and so on. Didn't see or hear anything from " I ride for black indie films" folks. No Tyler Perry or Oprah publicly supporting this and urging people to take their families. No NAACP having "viewings" in support of the film. No big-time religious support…NONE. No "you better go support this if you want more black films" folks. No onslaught of celebs tweeting how much they "loved the film" and "you should go see it." No emails telling folks the urgency to support this. No black twitter support or mention. No black "sisterhood" support for Kasi Lemmons, especially from other filmmakers who blab all day about changing the industry. I could go on but the point I'm making is "politics" and money are ALWAYS in play. Black unity has a price nowadays.


I saw Black Nativity and I hated it. I don't recommend the film. It was highly predictable and I think that's why it didn't do well at the box office this weekend. Preacher father is ashamed of teenage daughter pregnant out of wedlock, preacher father casts out teenage daughter, teenage daughter falls on hard times, everyone gets together in the end. We've seen this movie a thousand times. No one's interested anymore.

And yes, Mary looked RIDICULOUS with that platinum blonde wig and those silver wings.


I'm a musical theater girl. I didn't go see it because it looked bad . . . bad with a capitol B. The trailer made me itch. Might have been a better film if someone who knew something about musical theater was involved. SERIOUSLY IT JUST LOOKED BAD!


I cannot tell a lie. No no NO, a thousand time NO, I'd rather die than say yes.

"CareyCarey, what on earth are you ranting about now?

Well, I've been biting my tongue and holding back, in essence telling a lie by omission. Listen, there are a few details about this project (Black Nativity) that has been eating at my craw. I was hesitant to speak on them because… well… you know… there are a few topics one should avoid at all cost unless controversy, mud splash baths or never-ending arguments are one's favorite cup of tea. I mean, I can do controversy (love it) but politics, religion and talking about another man's wife are very slippery slopes.

Okay, who's the wife of Vondie Curtis-Hall? Yep, you guessed it, Kasi Lemmons. Now, this film was inspired by Langston Huges's play and has a religious theme, right? What faith was Langston Huges most associated with, Protestantism, Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Baptist or Islam? If you know the answer hold that thought, I'll get back to that.

Now we all know politics is/are an ugly mess filled with sharks, the rich, movers and shakers who would sell their first born child and step on the neck and use anyone to get richer and more powerful. Unfortunately, movies and business and money and politics go hand in hand. In the context of black films, especially one directed by a black women, it's safe to say politics will always be lurking somewhere in the shadows. However, for this rant, I'm not going to harp on that issue (and what I heard from a close friend), I'll just stick with the facts.

Now check out a small piece of a 2011 interview with Kasi lemmons.

Why did you choose that theme?

"Growing up in Boston, annually my mom took me to see the black nativity which is a black gospel musical on the birth of Jesus. About 500,000 people see it annually, so it's a really popular theme all over the country. It's ultimately a celebration of the black church, and I feel it's a great time for such a theme with an African American president in office… It's going to be dope" Re: Kasi Lemmons: A Woman of Substance

Ut oh Kasi, it may be "dope" to you but Biggie's Rule Number Four states: Never get high, on your own supply. I am suggesting that you and 500,000 people in your neighborhood may love black gospel musical on the birth of Jesus, but as the world turns (2 years later) those people and apparently President Obama, where not in the mood to be moved by the holy ghost nor gospel music, even if it was inspired by Langston Huges. That reminds me, all who has read 2 of Langston's novels please raise your hand. That's what I thought, folks been frontin' up in here. Now, please raise your hand if you know the history of Langston's play (Black Nativity) and how it was received on Broadway. That's what I thought, zilch, notta, nobody. The play was ripped about by critics… and it had a very short run. So why did Kasi believe black folks were gonna come arunnin'?

I mean, church folks ( I could be considered in that crowd) can get their their thrills, preaching and good gospel music at their home church or from many channels on TV, but the butler, Forest Whitaker is not the preacher they'd be looking for. And, of special note, remember that question on Langston Huges's "faith"? Well, he was a humanist "critical of belief in God". So what's really going on? Some black folks love them some Pulpit Pimps and the "hope" they inspire, but although Forest was a convincing Idi Amin Dada and a boot lickin' butler, and Langston was a great poet who few in this generation has read, nobody I know would follow them to the promise land.

Hey, I'm just saying… and I ain't trying to bad mouth Vondie's wife, but she blew it. I know, some of the major decisions were out of her hands. However, in the eyes of the law anyone who helped in the commission of a crime, regardless of the magnitude of their assistance, is guilty. In this case, had not Kasi, the driving force behind this project, allowed herself to be moved by her emotions, this debacle would not have taken place. And see, we all know what is presently happening in the board rooms of Hollywood, right? Com' on now… I can hear them now… "welp, by golly, we've given them a chance. No more black women directors and no more Christian themed films, except Tyler Perry's. Haul out those slave movies with white directors and writers, we'll show them who's the boss. No more betting on black"


I adore Kasi Lemons. BN will pick up and it actually did better than I expected given its debut date (shame on Fox). According to the NYT it was made for only 17.5 mil (and as we can as see marketing costs & other costs were minimal) so it will make a profit and do well on DVD etc. I disagree with points 4 & 5 – title works and I know many people are glad to have multiple Black holiday films.


Somewhere fox is wondering why their black themed films aren't making them money


Anybody want to take bets on how well Spike's NEXT "blood addiction" movie is going to do? "Blood addiction?" Anybody? Tambay? Anybody? Hello? Is this thing on?


This post was Sergio at his best! It was clever, smart, witty, informative and funny. There's no way I can list all the highlights (waay too many) but that line about Soledad O’Brien schooling white folks was a gem!

In reference to Black Nativity, the title turn off in combination with the other circumstances Sergio pointed out (waiting for the other, bad timing, bad marketing, lack of box office power ) are the ingredients of a movie's perfect storm. They're aggravated in the context of "black" films. That said, I have to look at a few details in this film that may have lead to it's demise.

But first, the good stuff. It was great to see a female ( a black female) at the helm. In my opinion Kasi Lemmons was the perfect choice. She was the director of what is arguably one of the top 3 indie black films of all time, Eve's Bayou. And I've said this before, of the current crop of black female directors, although Ava DuVernay receives the most press and is the new apple of the art house crowd's eye, Kasi is a proven commodity who has paid her dues over the long haul. Needless to say, although this movie may not have been the best vehicle to show her shine, my vote goes to Ms. Lemmons as the best person for the job,

Speaking of this vehicle's dull shine, let me list the ways it could have used a good wax on, wax-off. Jennifer Hudson's acting? Who saw her performance in "Mister & Pete"? Well, I could stop there but to be fair (and to say it lightly), she's not a seasoned actress. Mary J. Blige? Ditto…

But the old school crew was there. They surely would or could pickup the slack, right? Well, I love me some Forest Whitaker (even if I didn't care for the shuffling, turn the other cheek, non-threatening black butler who disowned his own child because said child was standing up for black folks). Yes sir, Forest can act his ass off… and he has been doing it for YEARS! In fact, yesterday I watched him in Clint Eastwood's "Bird" (1988) . In short, he killed it. Subtle nuances, unforced reactions and his uncanny ability to appear as if he was actually playing the saxophone (on every song) made for a delightful movie. Anyway, one can't go wrong with casting Forest Whitaker. But, as Sergio said, he may not be a box office powerhouse.

Now, Angela Bassett? Well, since this is Sergio's post, I think I'll defer my opinion of Ms Bassett to his. I mean, long time readers of S&A have had a sneak preview of Sergio's opinion on Angela's acting. So if he chooses to do so, I'll let him finish the following.

"Over the last decade Angela Bassett's acting has______________________________


Blackness is FEARED! As we can tell by this pathetic blogger. The White social construction of the world we live in caused people like this writer to HATE HIMSELF, his people and anything like his ilk. Not saying this CLOWN is black. Just saying that he IDENTIFIES with Whiteness. Yet the very whiteness he I.D.'s with, REJECTS HIM.

lol. Little patsy mexicans never learn.

Phred G

I think giving it the title BLACK NATIVY was it's first mistake. Granted, maybe a majority of Black folk aren't familiar with the original theatrical work. Our local theater does this musical ehvuhree Christmas season and each one (as a collaboration of the acting, and musical directors that year) ROCKS! Loosely paraphasing a past vice-presidential candidate: "I've SEEN Black Nativity and THIS is no Black Nativity". Based on the trailer I saw it should've been titled: Troubled Black Kid Gets Sent To Live With Estranged Uptight-Preacher-And-Wife-Parents Of His/Her Mother/Father Where He/She Meets A Baaaaaad Influence And Finds Redemption/Forgiveness/Jesus At The End During The Big BlackChurchScene Finale. ijs.


At first I wasn't interested in BN, and like many others I didn't know what it was about until I read an article revealing its premise based on a Langston Hughes play. Not playing up that aspect, as well as weak marketing, and the trailer (as others have noted), has definitely hurt it. I was going to try and catch it this weekend, nonetheless, to try and give it a chance. But, like many other Americans I was too busy with family, etc. …And now, after seeing the box office and reading the comments here I've decided to 86 my plans to see it next weekend.

Additionally, like others have stated, when I'm trying to decide what movies to spend my hard earned $$$ on I look at the story and the actors being cast. And based on the trailer it seems the Latimore kid and J Hud sort of take centerstage in this film, while Bassett and Whitaker are more supporting. Which is also a turn off for me, as J Hud doesn't have the chops to carry a film. And, it seems, Whitaker and Bassett aren't being utilized to their full potential. …Especially after having seen Whitaker, earlier this year, in "The Butler." …This just seems so-so. …I'm surprised, however, that more of the churchgoing audience didn't go out, in droves, to support this. …But, like others said, this weekend was a time for many of us to spend with our families, not in movie theaters.


Some moviegoers are backlogged…..The fam went to see "The Best Man Holiday" this weekend, and the fam plans to see "Black Nativity" next weekend.


I unfortunately saw Homefront and felt abused and violated and very annoyed by the time the credits rolled.

Not recommended, unless you're drunk.


Best Man Holiday, even though it's been out for 2 weeks, is competing with Black Nativity. I went with the family to see Best Man Holiday Saturday night – the theater was packed! Sorry, Nativity. maybe next week….


I didn't know what BN was about. I'm not a Langston Hughs fan. I'm also not a Christian so I'm not in a mood for one of those Black, Holy Jesus type movies which is what this looked like. (You know the type, some character, mid 60's black church lady says "Praise Jesus!" every 10 minutes or so).


I think Black Nativity will pick up steam. Maybe the core audience decided to stay home with family and later do something other than the movies…..? Not everyone goes to the movies on TG weekend, I don't know anyone who did.


True for 12 Years A Slave, which isn't great box office numbers. The film will do most of its recoup come award season. Oh, and too bad for Black Nativity. I just wasn't interested in the trailer or the poster, as you rightfully pointed out.


I think the issue was there was no demand for this film. Langston Hughes is a familiar name, but the play is not. Much less, as the article said, whose face in the film is going to draw you in? Much less, I sort of think Best Man Holiday and Black Nativity competed in many ways, and Best Man Holiday was seen as the better choice. Consider Best Man Holiday has actors who have had more recent hits than J. Hud who is portrayed as one of the leads in Black Nativity; then add in the fact that Black Nativity, both in advertising and in the movie, is very inclusive to Black people since you don't see any White, Asian, Hispanic or anything but Black. Lastly, Best Man Holiday was a reunion film, which you knew would have drama, but would be funny just the same, what did Black Nativity advertise? Struggle during the holidays, losing your home, and with Madea around the corner, can we really take three films (including Best Man Holiday) when Christian faith is a strong focus?

And really, being that I saw Black Nativity, it just isn't a film I would recommend others to see. The music wasn't as good as I hoped; the acting was just average, especially Whitaker who made a terrible priest; and it was just predictable and un-inspiring. If anything, they should have tried it for off-broadway to build up the name before having it leap on screen.


The Trailer was terrible. The Timing was terrible. And it was a terrible decision to put it up against the blockbusters as well a movie like "Best Man Holiday." The trailer was so bad that there were people I asked about who I KNOW were the demographic and they had no interest in seeing it. After that, I sadly figured it might not do so well. :-(


I'm just glad to see Best Man Holiday continues to hold on strong. $63 million after 3 weeks is a lot better than most people gave it credit for. It won't hit $100 million but at this rate, it should be in theaters for another 4 weeks and should hit $70 million by this time next week, on its way to $80 million. It's still the black film to beat until Madea Christmas comes out in 2 weeks. And word of mouth is obviously strong since the fall off from last week to this week was smaller than you would typically see during the 3rd week. That 3rd sequel will definitely happen now. Although they might be pushing it. I'm not sure people will be just as excited about a 3rd film.


The trailer was horrible and the particular clip of the song that JHud was singing in the trailer was worse. I am a fan and I hated it. The choice of title was unfortunate. Langston Hughes' Black Nativity is an iconic piece of theatre, however, I doubt that there are very many people, black or white, that know this work. This film was never presented as a classic and it should have been.


I agree. The trailer was not very good. It was also ambiguous and doesn't give you a sense of what the movie is about or what genre it is. It looked depressing, quite honestly. I love a good sad movie but who wants to see that with their family, on their day off, during Thanksgiving? And if the movie was supposed to be a musical, nothing in the trailer really sounded uplifting about it. And no, the shots of Mary J. Blige in the white afro wig did not help matters.


I think it was definitely that trailer. It was BAD. I had absolutely no desire to see it and I'm shocked to hear the actual story was quite different than the one the trailer portrayed.


Not gonna lie. I saw the title thinking it was the Jesus story with black actors. I've seen the Jesus story every year at church with black folks so why pay to go see it.

This Ain't Living!

What I've heard others (Blacks) say is that they just don't like musicals. And the cast. A lot of people seem turned off by JH's voice. I for one am tired of the black church/redemption/miracle narrative. It bores me. I'd rather see BN than that Madea movie though.


Black Nativity was actually dent, it was just bad timing.

Lauren B

I have two words for the BLACK NATIVITY flick: bad trailer. Whether the film is good or not, the trailer should still be alluring enough to pique your interest. The trailer conveyed a feeling of a Hallmark/cable movie that you watch on a lazy Sunday and certainly not a film you dish out $9 or $10 for.

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