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November 19, 2013

This Needs to Stop: Critics Surprised by Best Man Holiday Success

USA Today draws fire, backs off 'race-themed' headline on box-office story.

"Critics Need To Stop Being Shocked That Black Films Do Well" written by BEEJOLI SHAH

Universal's The Best Man Holiday made headlines this past weekend, opening this weekend to decent reviews, an extremely rare A+ rating on CinemaScore, and excellent box office numbers: $30.6 million, a close second to Marvel's Thor: Dark World, which earned $35.8 million in its second weekend. But films featuring predominantly black casts have been performing well for years, so why the hell are reporters still so shocked when a "black film" succeeds at the box office?

When Sony released Think Like A Man in 2012, it earned $33.6 million in its opening weekend, before going on to rake in a cumulative $91.5 million domestic gross. Not a single one of Tyler Perry's five Madea movies took in less than $21 million in their opening weekends. Yet black films continue to be seen as niche movies that only appeal to a small subsect of the population, and their success remains an anomaly.

When The Best Man Holiday took in $30 million this weekend, entertainment reporters were quick to express their shock that the movie did so well. The phrase "over-performed" was thrown around by outlets, including Variety. Struggling behemoth USA Today also stepped into it, titling an online headline "Holiday Nearly Beat Thor, As Race-Themed Films Soar." After much outrage on Twitter, they changed "race-themed films" to the equally inelegant "ethnically diverse," before finally settling on "Best Man Holiday Nearly Beats Mighty Thor." Ray Subers, the journalist who runs Box Office Mojo, a well-known site for box office prognostication and analysis, summed up his shock with a tweet on opening Friday that read "Looks like at least $30 mil for BEST MAN HOLIDAY this weekend. Very surprising." His prediction for the film was a paltry $54 million cumulative—a figure that will easily be outpaced if the opening weekend successes continue.

Labeling these box office victories as "surprising" and "over performing" immediately indicates that they are an aberration from the norm, unlikely to happen again with any degree of consistency. Coming from an average viewer, it's still short-sighted. Coming from a movie writer? It's idiotic. As a paid critic or commenter, there's a reasonable expectation to know what the hell you're talking about when preaching to thousands of readers. But there's a larger responsibility that comes with the reach: the ability to educate and engage. If entertainment reporters, who have seen continued trending success in films geared towards niche audiences, can't acknowledge that times are changing, can the general public's perception towards said films really evolve either?   ...this story continues [read more]

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