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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 

Do Multicultural Movies Make Money?

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Do Multicultural Movies Make Money?

Artel Great

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Why does it seem as if Hollywood is always surprised when a Black film comes in #1 at the box office? The most recent example being, No Good Deed starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson. The film's $24 million showing out earned the blockbuster superhero fantasy film Guardians of the Galaxy.  

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When will Hollywood ditch the fallacious logic that says diverse films don't sell?  A

nd when will they begin to see the value in multicultural experiences, images, and stories?  According to an insightful study conducted by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American studies at UCLA, films that have more diversity in the cast bring in more cash at the box office.  "Those [films] with a relatively high amount of [multicultural] involvement (21–30 percent) on screen posted the highest median global box office receipts ($160.1 million). In contrast, films with the least minority involvement (10 percent or less) posted much lower box office receipts ($68.5 million)."

So why the counterfeit surprise when Black films do well on opening weekend?  If Hollywood is truly about the bottom line (as most will readily admit) how can such stark numbers be overlooked?  Seems odd for billion dollar corporations to be so naïve.  And if it's not an oversight, perhaps a lack of social value would be more appropriate?

Throughout our national tour to launch the Project Catalyst App, we have encountered many valuable lessons. We got off "On the Good Foot" in New York City.  We engaged with diverse communities in Chicago about "How to Solve 2 of the Biggest Problems in Multicultural Media Distribution."  And in Los Angeles we gathered feedback and put all of our ideas to the test launching the app in the heart of Hollywood on the backlot at Raleigh Studios.  Our goal was to determine once and for all if multicultural audiences would turn out to support diverse underground artistry.  The red carpet event was sophisticated and vibrant.  Guests of all colors and ethnicities came together and shared knowledge and ideas.  I designed the event as part industry mixer, part app presentation, and part film screening in the studio’s Charlie Chaplin Theater. Guests were treated to the finest libations and the delectable soul fusion fare of Artistic Endeavors-LA.

The turnout was incredible. So far Los Angeles has been our largest event resulting in the most app downloads in a single outing.  Way to represent!  Attendees included celebrities Nelsan Ellis (Get On Up, True Blood) and Craig Robinson (The Office), as well as studio execs, producers, actors, directors, musicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, and other art enthusiasts. 

During my presentation, I encouraged the audience to recognize their own agency to act and change the images they consume.  I reminded them that we are all apart of a bigger story that has to do with reinvesting and making a contribution to the culture.  Above all, the visual media we consume should reflect us, relate to us, stimulate and energize us to be our very best.  That’s what it’s all about. 

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So is there really a market for multicultural media?  Absolutely.  Are you kidding? Stevie Wonder could see it and show it to Ray Charles!  In fact, if the tremendous success of the Los Angeles App launch showed me anything it’s this--- when we come together we can make amazing things happen, and when we are aware of better entertainment options that reflect our true potential we will support it. 

Multicultural audiences have always been here.  Ask Oscar Micheaux, Melvin Van Peebles, Spike Lee, or even Tyler Perry for that matter.  The question is when will Hollywood wake up and ditch their antiquated logic?  Who knows.  The most important thing is the Project Catalyst App was designed to bring a poetic solution to this fifteen year stalemate. 

Since August we’ve reached audiences on 6 continents across 22 countries— and counting.  If you haven’t downloaded the app get it free here.  If you have the app already, share it with a friend or family member.  Help make a positive contribution to spread high quality multicultural stories.

Use the comment section below and tell me if you agree or disagree that a multicultural media market exists.

Great ideas can change the world, but it takes great people like you to make it happen.