If you weren’t aware that Taraji P. Henson’s new movie “Proud Mary” came out this weekend it wouldn’t be your fault or mean that you’re out of the loop. More than likely, you didn’t know about the release because it was under-promoted, at least according to Black Twitter.
A lot of people have asked why Sony hasn’t created more buzz about the film, and they’re confused why it hasn’t received the same marketing push as movies starring white actors.
In “Proud Mary,” Henson plays an assassin who works for the Boston mob, who at first is trying to change professions and live a different life.
“I gotta talk about the marketing for ‘Proud Mary,’” one person tweeted. “Because the only one that seems to care about the movie is Taraji.”
“I hope @SonyPictures has some kind of explanation for why the marketing for #’ProudMary was so trash,” another person wrote
One person also pointed out that Sony Pictures dropped the ball with its marketing because they failed to capitalize off Henson’s past movie success.
“Last year around this time ‘Hidden Figures’ was making bank and getting critical acclaim,” wrote Twitter user Ferdosa. “This year Sony can’t be bothered to put some effort into promoting Taraji P. Henson’s ‘#ProudMary.’ Taraji has won numerous awards and is an Oscar-nominated actress.”
Ferdosa’s point about Henson being so accomplished is far from a stretch.
Besides being nominated for an Academy Award for the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” she also wracked up several NAACP Image and BET Awards, she’s won a SAG, a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy, plus a People’s Choice Award.
On top of that, with the current climate in Hollywood, where women’s voices are being heard in new ways, it would be easy to think Sony would get behind “Proud Mary” that much more. Some might say the huge success of Black movies in recent years like “Think Like a Man” and “Get Out” should be another reason Henson’s film deserved more support.
Yet and still, if all of that wouldn’t make the studio fully get behind “Proud Mary,” Henson’s iconic character Cookie Lyon should’ve. Since playing the role on the Fox show “Empire,” her brand and visibility have completely skyrocketed.
In a recent interview with Hollywood Reporter, Henson spoke about why some Black films lack the proper studio support, and it has to do with a belief that they don’t do well overseas commercially.
This is despite the fact that films like “Get Out,” “Hidden Figures,” and even movies dating back to 1988’s “Coming to America” have sold extremely well in the international market.
“[Studios] never expect [black films] to do well overseas,” said Henson. “Meanwhile, you go overseas and what do you see? People trying to look like African-Americans with Afros and dressing in hip-hop fashions. To say that black culture doesn’t sell well overseas, that’s a lie. Somebody just doesn’t want to do their job and promote the film overseas. Do you not have people streaming my Christmas specials in Australia?”
“Come on, y’all,” she added. “I don’t understand the thinking. Send me over there, and if it fails then we don’t do it again, but why not try? If I knew this movie was gonna make money domestically, I would try to get more money overseas. It’s business.”
The “Empire” star also said gender plays a factor in which films studios get behind, and there’s a huge double standard between the sexes.
“When women get older in this business, they tend to send us out to pastures,” explained the 47-year-old actress. “Meanwhile, you have Liam Neeson, however old he is, still kicking ass in “Taken” and Denzel Washington, who at any given drop of a dime, will do an action film. F–k that. If men can do it, why can’t we? I feel like women get better as we age. Give us the same chances as you give men.”
Whether Sony actually turned its back on “Proud Mary” will more than likely continue to be a subject of debate, but what has been confirmed is the film wasn’t allowed to be screened by critics or reporters, not even those who attended a press junket.
In Hollywood that usually means one of two things: Either there’s some sort of surprise ending that the studio doesn’t want to reveal, or executives believe the film will be reviewed negatively.
But according to a Sony representative, Screen Gems — the studio’s genre division — doesn’t screen a lot of its movies, so “Proud Mary” wasn’t singled out.
The rep also assured the studio didn’t hold out on promotional dollars for the film and as far as race, it says 80 percent of Screen Gems’ library is made up of movies that have people of color in major roles.
“Not screening for critics happens regularly for Screen Gems’ films,” said the Sony spokesperson. “There’s a ton of promotion around the film. Awareness is at a high 92 percent. Taraji [is] all over doing publicity; she did eight talk shows in two days. Marketing is everywhere across all platforms.”
Those who live in the city of Los Angeles may find some of the rep’s statement to be true, considering “Proud Mary” ads can be seen all over the city on billboards and bus stop benches.
But still, do you really know what the film is about outside of Henson being an assassin?
The way it appears, there’s a concentrated effort to obscure the overall plot, which again could be a creative decision or one that’s based on worrying about bad reviews.
As far as the theory about Black movies not selling well overseas, the Sony spokesperson chose not to address it, so it’s still unknown if that’s the reason the studio didn’t promote more.
But there was one person who spoke about the theory and that was Octavia Spencer, who said studios have to do a far better job of giving Black actors and Black films a chance to be successful across the pond.
“[Will Smith] was told the same thing—that he wasn’t going to be taken to promote his film,” she explained. “Had he not paid for himself to fly all over the world that very first time, he would not be an international box-office star. So they have to start investing and taking black actresses and actors across the world just like they do with unknown white actors. They need to do the same thing for black actors. If you don’t know ’em, why would you go support the film?”
You can see some of the Twitter reactions about “Proud Mary” below.
Last year around this time Hidden Figures was making bank and getting critical acclaim. This year, Sony can't be bothered to put some effort into promoting Taraji P. Henson's #ProudMary. Taraji has won numerous awards and is an Oscar nominated actress… https://t.co/zgg2SvYTk0
— ferdosa (@atomicwick) January 10, 2018
— 🌌 Court 🌌 (@courtdanee) January 7, 2018
— Birth.Movies.Death. (@bmoviesd) January 8, 2018
— ferdosa (@atomicwick) January 7, 2018
— Sosita (@SosaFilm) January 4, 2018
At this point in her career, Taraji P. Henson is too big of a star to recieve such little promotion for a film that she’s starring in. I just need to know who’s responsible, because #ProudMary looks GOOD. pic.twitter.com/y9nPzsozxK
— GreatIsNate (@TheGreatIsNate) January 8, 2018
— Kate ︽✵︽ 🏳️🌈 (@iamwintermute) January 7, 2018
— Joi Childs (@jumpedforjoi) January 12, 2018
Just adding to the convo about #ProudMary marketing – Sony's record of promoting their Black led films have been garbage for a while now. Examples:
"No Good Deed"
"The Perfect Guy"
"When The Bough Breaks"
— Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) January 7, 2018