So the year’s almost over folks, with less than 10 days to go. Even though there is still 1 more “black film” to be released theatrically in the USA, before the end of 2014 (“Selma” specifically), here’s the list of the top-grossing black films of 2014.
I’m not including “Selma” as well as “Top Five” and “Annie,” because, all are late 2014 releases (December), and each will see its box office gross grow into 2015. In fact, “Selma” (which is set to be released on Christmas Day, December 25, on just 19 screens), will certainly make the bulk of its box office in 2015, after it’s theater count will likely be significantly increased, when Paramount expands its reach nationwide.
So, again, the below list is minus “Selma” “Top Five,” and “Annie” for reasons stated above.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a black cinema renaissance (as others have), but 2014 has been one of the better years for black film in the USA in the last 15 years. My simple definition for “black film” for the sake of this post: movies that tell stories centered specifically on characters of African descent. And I’m not including those that were released directly to the home video market (DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, etc), if only because I just don’t have access to all that data, and it would take quite a lot of time to sort through and compile).
Of course quantity and quality don’t always go together, but, unlike quantity, quality is subjective. In 2014, black cinema certainly had the former (quantity), compared to previous years in this century. The numbers certainly don’t lie. But the quality, is something that we can debate ad naseam. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes.
Using Box Office Mojo as my source (with data as of this past weekend), I compiled a list of the top 10 grossing “black films” of the year, and, although I was already fully aware of how well the movie did, it’s still a bit of a surprise to see “Ride Along,” not only at the top of the list, but far ahead of those behind it. It grossed a very impressive $134 million, leaving Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer” in the dust, beating it for the top spot by about $34 million. Is Kevin Hart a bigger box office draw today than Denzel Washington? Is one thing that what we can surmise from these numbers? Keep in mind that Washington’s highest grossing film ever, is 2007’s “American Gangster,” which made just about $130 million, un-adjusted for inflation.
“Think Like a Man Too” fell short of its predecessor’s box office numbers, earning about $30 million less. I’m actually not surprised. The first one I found charming, fun and somewhat refreshing. I was entertained and it worked for me. The second really shouldn’t have been made, and it showed. It was a disappointment – at least, it was for me; but thankfully, it didn’t entirely ruin the franchise. I just hope that if there is a 3rd, that it’s a vast improvement on the second. But $65 million on a $24 million budget certainly isn’t anything to dismiss. It made its budget back, and has likely been profitable for the studio.
If there’s any wonder why I call Will Packer a “super producer,” it’s because 4 films he produced – “Ride Along,” “Think Like a Man Too,” “No Good Deed,” and “About Last Night” – made the list of the top 10 grossing “black films” of the year. The man is certainly on fire right now, especially as he expands his reach into the world of television. Next year should be just as eventful for him, as he’s either producer or executive producer of at least 2 feature films scheduled for release in 2015. And he’s sold at least 3 new TV projects to various networks – projects that may turn into full series during the 2015/2016 TV season.
And what would a year in black cinema be without at least 1 Tyler Perry movie in the top 10? Although, unlike previous years, 2014 was actually a *light* year for Mr Perry, in terms of feature film releases. He directed just 1 released film – “Single Moms Club” – and, as other non-Madea Tyler Perry movies have done, this one didn’t perform too well at the box office, ending up at the bottom of the list, grossing just under $16 million. The average box office gross for Tyler Perry movies is around $50 million, so, clearly “Single Moms Club” woefully under-earned. But, as I said, his non-Madea movies tend to perform a lot worse than his Madea starrers.
Of course, I should also mention “Get on Up,” “Addicted,” and “A Haunted House 2,” all 3 on the list as well, in the #6, # 7 and #8 slots – each performing fairly well enough, compared to budget. But I don’t believe either was expected to be a blockbuster. I should note that “A Haunted House 2” really under-performed compared to its predecessor (“A Haunted House”) which grossed over $40 million on a $2.5 million budget. Its success inspired its sequel, which cost $1.5 million more (or $4 million), but made less than half of what the first film did.
And even though it missed making the top 10, Justin Simien’s “Dear White People” is worth mentioning, if only because it earned a rather healthy $4.4 million. While I always hoped that it would perform well, I frankly didn’t expect numbers this high, given the earnings of previously released black indie films. Indie films in general (whether black or not) typically don’t earn as much as DWP has. So kudos goes to Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions for their marketing efforts on the film. I remember seeing the Phillip Seymour Hoffman drama/thriller, “A Most Wanted man,” and being surprised to see the trailer for DWP running before it.
Amma Asante’s “Belle” just missed the list – the only non-Black American film. It performed quite well actually, for a film of its ilk, earning almost $11 million in ticket sales. Keep in mind that this is a film whose widest theatrical release was just 525 screens, which makes that $11 million take even more impressive. One can only wonder how much it might have earned if the number of screens doubled, or even tripled. To compare, Tyler Perry’s “Single Moms Club,” played on as many as 1900 screens nationwide, but only ended up grossing just about $5 million more, despite running on over 3 times the number of screens.
So that’s it for 2014!
Again, “Selma,” “Annie” and “Top Five” will spill over into 2015, since they were all released (or will be released) this month, so I didn’t include them here. I’ll count them on 2015’s list, a year from now.
The list for this year follows below. Note that these figures are domestic box office only.
How many did you see in theaters, specifically (not on home video)?
EDIT: I was obviously asleep when I typed this, because I left out a film that should be on the list – Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “Beyond the Lights,” which has grossed over $14.4 million since its November 14 release. We’ve covered it so much on this blog that you wouldn’t expect me to overlook it. So it really should be number 10, not “Belle.” Thanks to Leo for catching that. With Bythewood, Amma Asante and Ava DuVernay each directing feature films receiving theatrical releases this year, one can say that this has been one of the better years for black women filmmakers working at the studio level.
1 – Ride Along $134,938,200
2 – The Equalizer 2014, $100,915,604
3 – Think Like a Man Too, $65,182,182
4 – No Good Deed, $52,543,632
5 – About Last Night, $48,637,684
6 – Get On Up, $30,703,100
7 – Addicted, $17,390,770
8 – A Haunted House 2 $17,329,486
9 – Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club, $15,973,881
10 – Beyond the Lights, $14,415,523