The opening weekend of the long-awaited film, Think Like A Man, topped box offices, earning $33 million, according to published reports. Shocking the movie industry, the low-budget film, produced with just $13 million and targeted at African-American audiences, became the Number One movie in North America.
The date-night film featuring five-ethnically diverse couples and adapted from the best-selling advice book, co-written by Steve Harvey and Denene Millner, took only two days to knock Gary Ross’s Hunger Games out of its Number One spot. Performing well beyond projected pre-release expectations, the film earned Sony its fourth No. 1 film debut of the year.
The Hunger Games, the film based upon the best-seller series written by Suzanne Collins, slipped to third in the box office, after four consecutive weekends at Number One. It thus far has earned $356.9 million in the U.S.
So what does the success of Think Like a Man mean for black films in the future?
Earlier this year Red Tails sparked national controversy when George Lucas, the film’s famous white producer, spoke candidly about the difficulties he faced in securing money for his film, which featured an all-black cast. Both Spike Lee and Tyler Perry have also publicly criticized the film industry for its lack of financial backing and unwillingness to support black films.
According to the market research firm, Cinemascore, as published in Entertainment Weekly, 62 percent of the Think Like a Man moviegoers were women, ages 30 and older; they gave the film a rating of A. Although the film was targeted at African-American audiences, it was not clear how it appealed to people of other races because Sony historically does not provide an ethnic breakdown of its audiences to news media.
Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution president, told the Los Angeles Times, “There wasn’t a group that this didn’t play well to,” according to the LA Times.
“I think there were several elements as to why the film was successful,” Bruer said, “starting with the fact that it’s hysterically funny, and people loved a humorous look at the difference between men and women.
However, Think Like a Man—with an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union and Taraji P. Henson—is not in a category of its own. The continued success of Tyler Perry films and last year’s comedy Jumping the Broom by Salim Akil, which earned $37 million in its opening weekend, prove movies targeted at African-American audiences can top the box office.
By finishing its first weekend at Number One, perhaps Think Like a Man demonstrated that the path to bigger box office success for black films lies in the relatability of romantic comedies. Will the film’s big score prove to be a harbinger of future financial support for black films—or will they continue to have to knock on Hollywood studio doors with hat in hand?