I’m going to try to catch Think Like a Man this week, so I’ll be able to report back on whether this romantic comedy, which boasts a mostly-African American cast, is actually any good. But I am very, very curious to see how the coverage of it plays out over the next several weeks, and whether any projects get greenlit as a result. Think Like a Man was on track to make $33 million this weekend even though it only opened in 2,017 theaters, or $15,369 per theater. By contrast, uber-white The Vow, which starred Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, substantially bigger stars, opened with $41 million in 2,958 theaters, or $13,860 per theater.
So what’s the lesson going to be? Will it be that if you do the marketing right—a lot of the trailers were from the perspectives of the male characters rather than the women—men will turn out for romantic comedies? Apparently, audiences for Think Like a Man were 37 percent male. Will it be that romantic comedies with black stars can cross over? I haven’t found breakout data on the racial makeup of audiences, though the studio appears to be claiming that racial crossover is part of the movie’s success. Will it be that there’s pent-up desire for romantic comedies, or movies period, with black casts? That if you court black journalists, students at historically black colleges and universities, and similar outlets and constituencies, you’ll get exceedingly strong turnout for a movie that actually engages with the target audience rather than tokenizing it? Will it be that maybe it’s time to see if Michael Ealy and Romany Malco are viable romantic comedy stars? Hollywood was willing to do a fair amount of work with Tatum before he became both a box-office monster and started getting nice reviews from people who aren’t observant ladies like me. Maybe Ealy, Malco, and the other men in this movie have proved they’ve earned the same amount of patience?
I would be shocked if this was the movie that made the difference and made Hollywood wake up. But I’d like it to be really clear the lessons that they should take. No one should get to claim a passing grade because they burned all the copies of the test papers.