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Underestimating the box office potential of films featuring actors of color – ‘The Call’ Halle Berry

There is an amusing phenomenon, going back at least as long as I can remember, to underestimate the box office potential of films featuring actors of color. We don’t see it coming, we’re shocked when it happens, and then studios don’t actually factor this new information into their production slate.

Anyway, The Call was the top new release of the weekend, earning $17.2 million. Yes the film played strongly among African Americans, at least partially because the movie bothered to feature a few (Halle Berry and Morris Chestnut among many others) in more than just token roles. Tracking this debut compared to Berry’s previous efforts is tough because she has had co-starring roles in stuff like Die Another Day ($47 million debut), The Flintstones ($29 million), and the X-Men trilogy ($54m, $85m, and $102m).

In terms of starring vehicles, this is bigger than the likes of Catwoman ($16 million), and A Perfect Stranger ($11 million), but below Gothica ($19 million). The marketing smartly highlighted that it was a film about one woman rescuing another woman from peril, with no clear male lead. It played 61% female and 53% over-30. The picture cost just WWE just $13 million before selling the rights to Sony and earned a B+ from Cinemascore, so it may just have legs. Even if its appeal is about “black audiences have nothing for them right now”, Warner Bros’ Jackie Robinson biopic 42 doesn’t open until April 12th.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos

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