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“Did You See the Ticket Sales?”: NAACP Image Award Attendees Dismantle the Myth That Black Films Don’t Sell

"Have you heard of Beyoncé?"

Attendees at the NAACP Image Awards were asked their opinion about the once-pervasive Hollywood myth that films about black people “don’t sell,” especially when it comes to the international market. Bill Maher has peddled this myth, claiming that Chinese audiences are too racist for films with black stars to succeed in that market. (The Fate of the Furious was the second-highest-grossing movie in China in 2017.) Studio executives have peddled it, claiming that films with black casts “don’t travel,” despite the box office receipts.

Setting aside some of the problematic assumptions in talking about “black films,” as if films with majority-black casts don’t stretch across all the same diverse genres and themes that films with non-black casts do, the answers that the attendees gave were incredibly on-point.

“Look at the Black Panther sales,” said Milton “Lil Rey” Howery. “Look what Get Out did. Look what Girls Trip did. Come on. Keep it going. Keep giving us these movies, and we’re gonna keep making that money. And we’re not even getting all the help to do it. The fans are telling you what you want to see.”

“Um, did you see the ticket sales for Black Panther?” said Danielle Brooks. “Did you see the ticket sales for Get Out? Did you see the ticket sales for Girls Trip? I think you need to go over and check that list twice. That’s what I would say.”

“We have some incredible movies, and we’ve been doing them ever since I got to Hollywood,” said Loretta Devine. “It’s just a matter of giving it a chance.”

“I mean, have you heard of Beyoncé?” asked Yvette Nicole Brown. “If you can enjoy Beyoncé’s music, or Rihanna’s music, across the nation, then what is the difference with a black actress or a black actor? That’s crap. We are universal. You love our butts, our lips, our music, our sports prowess. You love our inventions. You love that we built this entire country. But somehow you can’t watch us play a mother in a movie? Or an action star in a movie? Somehow that’s just a stretch?”

Audiences want to watch good films. Black creatives make plenty of good films. This shouldn’t be a difficult one to grasp.

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