Over the past several weeks, George Lucas’ film Red Tails has received a tremendous amount of publicity and support from the media and fans alike. And though many, including the powers that be in the film industry, wondered if a big-budget film with a majority-black cast could succeed at the box office, all doubts were put to rest this weekend when Red Tails soared up the U.S. Box Office list, raking in over $19 million.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Red Tails, a film about the lives of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, landed at No. 2 on the U.S. Box Office list with a three-day total of $19.1 million, just behind Underworld: Awakening, which grossed $25.4 million. During promotion for the film, Lucas revealed that he’s spent the last 20 years trying to release Red Tails, but failed to find support from major film companies, all of whom feared that a film with a majority-black cast wouldn’t be able to generate big bucks in theaters in the U.S. and overseas.
After years of rejection, Lucas finally decided to fund the project himself, spending $58 million on the production budget and another $35 in distribution costs. Lucas was also able to get Fox to handle the marketing and distribution for the film, and, to the surprise of many, Lucas convinced “The Boondocks” creator, Aaron McGruder, to come on board as a screenwriter for the film during its final stages. The film stars veteran black actors like Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr., and a slew of fresh actors like Ne-Yo, Tristan Wilds, David Oyelowo and Nate Parker.
As the Red Tails neared its debut, a number of black celebrities, including The Obamas, who recently hosted a White House screening of the film with real Tuskegee Airmen, and filmmaker Tyler Perry, who sent an open letter to Lucas, thanking him for funding and making the film.
And according to Chris Aronson, Fox’s executive vice president of domestic distribution, the film industry should be thanking Lucas and Red Tails as well for helping to boost box-office numbers.
“The weekend was up 31 percent and the primary reason is this original true tale of heroism and valor. It’s a true American story,” said Aronson.
Red Tails performed well in all demographics across the country, but did especially well in theaters in African American markets and diverse cities like New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. And, as Lucas wanted, men responded well to the film, making up 51 percent of the audience. Unfortunately, Red Tails’ performance in Canada was underwhelming, though, black-themed movies often underperform in Canada.
However, Red Tails American success is surely a proud moment in black cinema history and with its success, hopefully, Hollywood will put more financial backing behind black films. And hopefully, more black actors and filmmakers will be inspired to take their dreams into their own hands and invest into films that tale the stories of black lives. Below are other notable black films that dominated at the box office. –nicholas robinson