The Best Man Holiday Gives Thor a Run for Its Millions

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Thor: The Dark World won the weekend, and it almost doesn’t matter. The Marvel Studios sequel will keep generating hundreds of millions at the North American box office — where its $38.5-million second weekend brought it to a muscular $147 million — and abroad. In less than three weeks, The Dark World has already exceeded the worldwide total of the 2011 Thor, $479.8 million to $449.3 million. Marvel movies make money; that is not news.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Thor: The Dark World)

The weekend’s surprise is that the black-cast rom-com-dram The Best Man Holiday soared some 50% above industry forecasts and earned $30.6 million, according to preliminary studio estimates. In this followup to the 1999 The Best Man, which tallied $34.1 million in its entire run ($54 million in today’s dollars), writer-director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike’s cousin) reconvened his first film’s cast — Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan and Nia Long — for a Christmas session of laughs, tears and a few primal screams.

[UPDATE: According to the final weekend figures, issued Monday, all 10 of the leading films finished below their reported Sunday estimates, from the modest 1.6% drop for The Best Man Holiday (whose actual total was $30.1 million) to the severe 4.9% dive for Thor: The Dark World (to $36.6 million). In limited release, Charlie Countryman fell 7.3% from its pitiful $8,600 in 15 theaters to an egregious $7,973.]

Produced for a meager $17 million, which suggests that the stars were paid Walmart wages (we hope they share in the profits), the R-rated Holiday received mixed reviews from critics but enthralled its largely African-American audience. Early viewers, polled by the CinemaScore research firm, gave the film a perfect A-plus, the same rating The Help snagged two years ago.

(READ: Taye Diggs on How to Be Funny When You’re Naked in The Best Man Holiday)

As women go to see movies about men (because what other kinds are there?), so blacks see movies about whites. But a minority that buys perhaps a fifth of all film tickets sold in the U.S. surely merits a cinema of its own. Some of the biggest marquee names are gentlemen of color — Denzel Washington, Dwayne Johnson, Jamie Foxx when he feels like it, Will Smith when he’s not playing impresario to his son’s career and, if you will, Vin Diesel (who describes himself as “of ambiguous ethnicity”) — mostly in movies where their race is incidental to an action-film plot.

Below that stratosphere, and beyond the Tyler Perry Madea phenomenon, there’s room for modestly budgeted comedies and dramas about the black experience. The Jackie Robinson 42 ($95 million domestic gross) and Lee Daniels’ The Butler ($115 million) showed the broad appeal of inspirational bio-pics. Closer to the Holiday vibe was last year’s Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey’s genial relationship comedy that opened to $33.6 million and earned $91.5 million before it was done. If Holiday can match the Harvey picture’s earning, even myopic Hollywood moguls should begin greenlighting more movies to please this underserved audience.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Think Like a Man

Actually, this wasn’t a bad box-office weekend for racial equilibrium. Five of the top 10 films have leading or important roles for black actors: Idris Elba as the all-seeing Watchman in The Dark World; Morgan Freeman as one of the alter kocker quartet in Last Vegas (No. 3); Chiwetel Ejiofor and many splendid black performers in 12 Years a Slave (No. 8); and Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the pirate crew in Captain Phillips (No. 9).

The whitest film imaginable — Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern as the cranky patriarch of an oddball, Anglo, Plains-state family — opened well. An Oscar hopeful for Dern as Best Actor and Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) for director, the movie earned $140,000 in a limited release of just four theaters. Elsewhere, the English holiday-miracle movie The Christmas Candle managed a respectable $756,000 on five screens.

(READ: Belinda Luscombe’s profile of Bruce Dern in Nebraska

The weekend’s finest new release, by many critics’ measure, was Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, a meditation on modern Roman holidays that earned a bellissima $23,000 at one Manhattan theater. By ignominious comparison, Charlie Countryman, a romantic drama headlined by Shia LaBeouf, cadged $8,600 at 15 venues, for a sickly $573 per-screen average. Just a few years ago, with starring roles in the Transformers series and the fourth Indiana Jones film, LaBeouf was the hot young male actor — mainstream movies’ Great White Hope. But, at least for now, he’s Hopeless.

(READ: Mary and Richard Corliss’s review of The Great Beauty)

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. Thor: The Dark World, $38.5 million; $147 million. second week
2. The Best Man Holiday, $30.6 million, first weekend
3. Last Vegas, $8.85 million; $47 million, third week
4. Free Birds, $8.3 million; $42.2 million, third week
5. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, $7.7 million; $90.2 million, fourth week
6. Gravity, $6.3 million; $240.6 million, seventh week
7. Ender’s Game, $6.2 million; $53.8 million, third week
8. 12 Years a Slave, $4.7 million; $24.9 million, fifth week
9. Captain Phillips, $4.5 million; $97.6 million, sixth week
10. About Time, $3.5 million; $11.6 million, third week

17 comments
kingzlo
kingzlo

It is an emotional season, not a season for war and violence.  :-)

Theecarlitap
Theecarlitap

We really need a dislike button with articles like these. 

SeanGayle
SeanGayle

I respectfully disagree with the other folks. I was pleasantly surprised by how candidly you chose to write this article. Yes - I'm looking forward to a day where race isn't a factor. But until such a unicorn shows up, Its nice to get a dose of honest reality without feeling like I'm being patronized.

For the record I saw both movies, had high expectations for Thor and very low expectations for Best Man. Thor was 'meh' thanks to the fantastic beginning & middle but ultimately horrific ending. The Best Man deserves the word of mouth accolades its getting. It was unexpectedly phenomenal. 

ErricaSmith
ErricaSmith

After I read this article I had to look again to see the source. TIME really? Mr. Corliss you could have critiqued this movie just the same with no mention about the race of the cast. It's like race difference will never cease.

JenuineJem
JenuineJem

There have been many movies that didnt have a single person of color or different ethnicity besides Caucasian but critics spoke about the MOVIE and not the race of the cast. Because finally a movie is created about the lives of people who are not white, the story falls into the background because the race is what's important? As Brandon T. Jackson once said: I can't for this ignorant bigoted generation to die of. Maybe then we shall get critics who actually critic movies. Why remind people that "oh this movie has black people in it?" #stupidity

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

1) In its first weekend, Thor 2 made over $88 million, and proved its sustaining popularity by taking in over $38 million in its second week.  While it's noteworthy that "Best Man" made just over $30 million in its debut weekend, it's highly unlikely that it will sustain those figures going forward, as there's really nothing to recommend the film over other choices.

2) We live in the year 2013 (almost 2014).  Why are we STILL highlighting racial differences in movies?  People don't see movies just because they're too White, Black, Asian, Whatever.  They see movies to be entertained by the inherent storyline, personality/character dynamics, etc.  To think that discrimination was supposed to be a thing of the past...

3) Corliss is usually spot-on with his commentary, but how can he say that Thor's enduring popularity, "almost doesn't matter?"  The relative popularity of a film - or, in Thor's case, a franchise - will affect whether the franchise continues for future audiences.  Having saw the film recently, I am one who would like to see the series continue, and I hope the film's box office receipts continue to bolster that perception for filmmakers.

therantguy
therantguy

When was Shia Labeouf a hot young actor? Do you honestly believe there is a single person who saw Transformers (critically panned) or Indiana Jones 4 (critically panned) because he was in it? Other than maybe his mother? 


There is a huge difference between being a star of a movie where you are the draw and being the "star" of a movie where you are incidental cardboard to special effects and/or an established worldwide franchise.

kingzlo
kingzlo

@Theecarlitap For me it was a headline capture for me to comment on it.  I didn't even read the article.  LOL

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

@JenuineJem

"Because finally a movie is created about the lives of people who are not white, the story falls into the background because the race is what's important?"

Really? You think this is the first movie ever created about the lives of people who weren't white? There's never been a "black" movie before? I could go on and on for hours about movies that aren't about white people but for the sake of time I'll just go with the most obvious rebuttal to that and ask who you consider Tyler Perry's movies to be about? Certainly not white people

madconceptz74
madconceptz74

@mrbomb13 actually people DO see movies and tv shows based in part on race..

Lets take The Wire for instance. The running joke is that white people love The Wire. But it was chronically low rated. Here's speculation from one of the creators on the show as to why:

The Wire has never been about one ruthless villain, or one relentless cop, or giving viewers anything that they've come to expect from other dramas. Instead, the show adheres to Baltimore's reality, and that means more than putting noted Baltimoreans like onetime police commissioner Ed Norris or Melvin Williams — the former drug kingpin busted by Burns in 1984 — in recurring roles. It also necessitates a predominantly African-American cast, one that the show's creators readily acknowledge hurts their ratings. (The average viewership for season 3 was 1.5 million per episode.) ''It's not just the farmer in Kansas,'' says Burns. ''It might be the suburbanite in Ohio. But there are people who see that many black faces staring back at them and say, 'This is not my story.''' (It's worth noting that season 2, which employed the largest number of Caucasian actors since the show aired, was also its highest rated.)

Out of 5 seasons only the one with a majority white cast had the highest viewership. 



SeanGayle
SeanGayle

@madconceptz74 @SeanGayle Because it came out 14 years after the first which makes it seem like a desparate cash grab. Also how many sequels outdo the original? The track record isnt too good. 

madconceptz74
madconceptz74

@mrbomb13

Study Finds White People Don’t Watch Black Movies. In a research paper published in May, Andrew J. Weaver, a telecommunications professor at Indiana University, conducted two studies to test whether the racial makeup of a film’s cast could influence the decisions of white audiences. The study, called “The Role of Actors’ Race in White Audiences’ Selective Exposure to Movies”, concluded “minority cast members” do in fact lead white audiences to be less interested in seeing certain films. The second study looked at romantic comedies. And race definitely played a role when it came time for on-screen kisses.
“The higher the percentage of black actors in the movie, the less interested white participants were in seeing the movie,” Weaver wrote of the second group. “Importantly, this effect occurred regardless of participants’ racial attitudes or actors’ relative celebrity … This finding would also seem to lend credence to producers’ concerns about casting black actors into these kinds of romantic roles.” 
just google the title for the article

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

"...seems to be a hell of a coincidence that happens over and over again."

That statement is a classic example of anecdotal evidence, which is sometimes wrongly confused with solid evidence.  Anecdotal evidence comes from your personal experiences. beliefs, values, etc. (as indicated by your use of the word, "seems").  Just because something 'seems' to be happening quite frequently does not necessarily mean it is. 

However, if you do have hard evidence of your claim, please feel free to share it.