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Boots Riley Says ‘Sorry to Bother You’ Isn’t Playing Abroad Because Distributors Think ‘Black’ Movies Don’t Perform Well

The film has earned nearly $15 million at the box office to date.

boots riley sorry to bother you

Boots Riley at the Sundance Directors Lab

© 2016 Sundance Institute / Photo by null

Sorry to Bother You” has had a strong showing at the domestic box office, earning nearly $15 million in its first month of release despite never playing in more than 1,050 theaters. In spite of that, Boots Riley’s out-there directorial debut — which stars Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson and premiered at Sundance earlier this year — has yet to play in theaters abroad. Riley thinks he knows why: There’s a stigma against “black” movies, which distributors don’t believe will perform well internationally.

“Even tho we’r outperforming a gang of other movies, distributors r claiming ‘Black movies’ dont do well internationally and r treating it as such,” he tweeted. “There’r films that bombed here, that theyr distributing. Let em know wsup.” The film follows a black telemarketer (Stanfield) who adopts a white-sounding voice during calls in order to be more successful; it only gets stranger from there, veering into sci-fi surrealism as it explores race relations and other far-flung subjects.

Meanwhile, “Black Panther” — which some might likewise pigeonhole as a “black” movie — is among the most successful films of the year, earning more than $1.3 billion worldwide.

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