The Economics Of Minority Movies And Minority Power Players

Given Tyler’s post last week arguing that “The conversation we need to have is one in which minorities think about what kinds of economic models will make it possible for them to make cultural products for themselves and about the way we’d have to redefine what success means in order to do that,” and our debates about what Tyler Perry’s done with the power he’s assumed in Hollywood, I’ve been particularly curious about what Queen Latifah’s going to do with her Flavor Union studio. Turns out her first project is going to be a crime drama that involves Cam’ron and Deadwood veteran Omar Gooding committing credit card fraud. As much as that’s not a project that interests me, this sort of conventional-sounding and economically un-risky thing probably makes sense for a fledgling, black-owned studio. The more you prove you’re economically viable, the more leeway you have to do something boundary-pushing or downright weird without pressure to make bank on that, too.

Of course, it would also be nice to demonstrate to white studio heads and white investors that so-called risks on features with black stars will pay off, and handsomely. One of the reasons Red Tails is such a key test movie for black blockbusters is that George Lucas has spent so much money on it. I honestly thought I’d misheard the numbers the first time I heard them, but Lucas has spent $58 million making the movie and $35 million on promotion. That’s not insane in a world where $100 million-plus budgets for movies are no longer shocking, but it’s a lot of cheddar for even a very rich man to splash out on a project. It would be really nice to have a world where black — and minority, period — Hollywood power brokers’ successes weren’t always seen as flukes or the result of extremely rigid formulas. And to have a world where white dudes were interested and invested in backing minority projects for fun and profit.