I’ll admit it. I was nervous going into the weekend wondering if Red Tails would make a decent showing. Would it flop, sending all hopes of more Black blockbusters down in flames? Would it be so embarrassingly bad that people would be conflicted as to whether or not to recommend it just because it featured a Black cast?
Well it seems I had little to worry about. Red Tails surpassed even the most skeptical of estimates. Projected to net just $10 million over the weekend, Hollywood analyst predict the film will pull in over $19 million, placing it second only to Underworld Awakening, the fourth installment of the Underworld vampire franchise.
George Lucas has been blunt in his criticism of Hollywood during the weeks leading up to the film’s release. Major investors refused to back the movie because they didn’t think a profitable market existed for a blockbuster featuring a virtually all-Black cast.
“They felt there was no evidence that this sort of film would draw a big audience. I said I disagreed,” Lucas told USA Today. The director placed $58 million of his own money on the line to bring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to the big screen.
Critics have generally torpedoed the film. One boasted, “Despite a worthy fact-based story and obvious good intentions, Red Tails suffers from one-dimensional characters, corny dialogue, and heaps of clichÃ©s.”
Another complained, “Red Tails is littered with so many problems (from the hokey dialogue, to the cardboard characters, to the terrible pacing) that it does a real disservice to this important piece of history.”
“Doesn’t crash and burn””mostly because it barely gets off the ground,” was the blunt assessment of still another.
But it seems critics don’t know everything. Over the weekend, audiences had quite a different reaction. According to CinemaScore, the industry research firm that gauges moviegoers reactions to new releases, Red Tails earned a solid “A.” Twitter buzz was overwhelmingly positive as well, making Red Tails a trending topic.
Group sales helped boost the movie as busloads of school children, church groups, and other organizations flocked to see it. The film also appealed to a wide range of audiences including the elderly who lived through the era as well as the young interested in learning more about this piece of American history.
Much has been riding on the success of Red Tails. Lucas himself has expressed concerns that if Red Tails fails it could spell trouble for Black film-makers:
“I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk [with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions]. I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that [lower-budget] mold.
Tyler Perry has gone so far to say that, “movies starring an all African American cast are on the verge of becoming extinct,” and has urged Americans of all ethnicities to see the movie.
The biggest question now is whether or not Red Tails can keep the momentum and push toward profitability. Will the buzz die down keeping the movie in the red, dooming other high budget African-American film efforts in the process? Despite a gangbuster 19 million plus opening weekend, the film has quite a ways to go to recoup its $58 million production and $35 million distribution costs.
But with strong word of mouth and strong social media buzz, it seems Red Tails has a fighting chance.
BMWK, did you see Red Tails? What was your reaction? Will a successful Red Tails lead the way for other movies featuring African-American actors/actresses?