Regardless of some major award season snubs, box office sales and TV ratings suggest that Black films and TV shows are becoming a hot commodity all across the country. Now, Black filmmakers and TV producers are preparing to conquer the global market and prove just how universal Black-themed media really is.
TV shows like Scandal, Empire, How To Get Away with Murder and Black-ish that feature Black talent are excelling when it comes to TV ratings in America. Films like The Help, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, Selma and Annie that highlight Black stories are seeing major success at the box office. Even independent films like Justin Simien’s Dear White People are being picked up for major distribution deals more and more frequently.
These are the media trends that have many experts in the industry believing this could be a huge year for TV shows and movies that boast Black talent and introduce more Black voices to the market—not just domestically but overseas as well.
Major international sales companies have always been reluctant to get behind films with predominantly Black characters. Fortunately, there are signs that this could change soon.
One European TV buyer recently picked up Empire, although he admitted that there is hard work ahead for ensuring the show can become a foreign success.
“Empire’s success speaks for itself, but it will be a tough sell because we haven’t had a Black TV show go global since The Cosby Show and that was the first,” one European TV buyer at Berlin’s European Film Market (EFM) told The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s a resistance that Black filmmaker Lee Daniels doesn’t understand.
“It’s a dilemma that baffles me, because we should be making money overseas,” the director of The Butler said.
Daniels managed to prove his own naysayers wrong when The Butler went overseas to gross roughly $60 million.
“I think people everywhere are fascinated with African-American culture,” he continued. “Clearly, Beyonce is a hit. Clearly, Obama is a hit everywhere except in America with white people. African-American films should be making money overseas.”
The Book of Negroes producer Damon D’Oliveira believes that the changing landscape of countries all across the globe could finally allow many great Black films and TV series to begin “crossing a threshold” and thrive in the international market.
His own historic miniseries has seen great success with roughly 2 million viewers tuning in to its Canadian debut back in January.
Now the miniseries is scheduled to air on BET later this month with Entertainment One, the company in charge of world sales for the miniseries, claiming it has already secured new deals for distribution all throughout Europe.
D’Oliveira believes it’s a direct result of the world “becoming more multi-cultural.”
“Walking around Berlin, you see it isn’t an all-white city as it was maybe 20 to 30 years ago,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Neither is Europe. The world is hungry for all kinds of stories now.”
Dear White People’s foreign success is evidence of this growing hunger for Black stories.
The film may not have been a major success in America with roughly $4.4 million gross, but it has held its own in the foreign market. So far the film has already managed to secure deals in France, the U.K., South Korea, Turkey and Australia.
The recent foreign and domestic successes are great achievements that the Black community can certainly smile about, but Simien also warns people not to be fooled into thinking the diversity struggles in Hollywood are over.
“Every year there are a couple Black movies that do well and suddenly all of Hollywood’s racial problems are over,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think it’s all very well-meaning and there is room to celebrate, but the problems are still there.”