But in order for that to happen, Universal’s August release needed to cross over to a wider audience. It opened with strong reviews (70% on Metacritic) to an OK $14 million and a 70% African-American audience that was also 90% over age 25. (Scribe Patrick Goldstein described being unable to persuade his son to go see the film.)
It doesn’t help that within the African-American community there is a meme–spread on Twitter by well-followed @SpikeLee–that this is the white man’s version of the James Brown story. Folks assume (did they see the film?) that because “Get On Up” is produced, written and directed by white men, they must have soft-pedaled James Brown. In fact, Taylor and Boseman admitted at a PGA screening that they would have loved to release the R-rated version of the movie. Taylor tangled with the MPAA ratings board, and is unhappy with the edge that he lost. Producer Grazer explained that in order to persuade Universal to release the film, he had to agree contractually to a PG-13 rating. That’s really too bad.
So “Get On Up” topped out at $30 million domestic. Was August too early for a proper Oscar campaign? Arguably the film needed the room to build an audience, as “The Butler” did. But even with Harvey Weinstein behind a Lee Daniels film starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, that true story fared better at the summer box office ($116 million domestic) than the Oscars; it whiffed on nominations day.
Boseman’s performance is earning a reaction not dissimilar to those of Oscar-winners Foxx and Witherspoon. But both films nabbed slightly better reviews and an awards season boost from a Toronto Film Festival showcase. Universal chose to go in the less competitive August time frame.
Luckily for Boseman, he just landed the coveted role of Black Panther in the Marvel superhero universe. Not only does this give the actor a huge career boost, but it makes Universal’s “Get On Up” DVD move up in awards voters’ screener piles. Now they are more likely to watch it and check out this performance, or attend Universal’s screenings and awards parties. And if they do, they will see how great this performance is.
I spoke to Boseman on the flip cam, below.