Why ‘Girls Trip’ Matters
I was upset that I wasn’t going to be able to see Girls Trip on opening weekend. There wasn’t much of a promotional campaign for the movie, but I knew putting Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Tiffany Haddish on screen together was bound to be hilarious. Clearly everyone else agreed. The film opened with $31 million in the first weekend and only dropped to $20 million in its second week. That matters.
But, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. The film had much more going for it than a hilarious cast. Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man) directed the film and Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Tracy Oliver (The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl) were amongst its writers. Also, ensemble films with Black leads (like a box office smash The Best Man Holiday) have been successful for decades.
Black Ensemble Films Have Always Been Successful
From The Wood to The Brothers to Deliver Us From Eva, ensemble stories have been a major component of Black culture. But a major motion picture led by an all-woman cast? That hasn’t happened since the release of two little films called Set It Off and Waiting to Exhale.
To date, Set It Off (1996) has brought in in $36.4 Million dollars in the U.S. and $5 Million dollars internationally. Waiting to Exhale (1995) raked in $81.4 Million dollars worldwide, with $67 Million in the U.S. alone. If you adjust those numbers for inflation, the gross dollars for each film are $73.3 Million and $135.5 Million, respectively.
With that strong history of success, it should have been expected that Girls Trip would be a win. As usual, white people didn’t see value of things that weren’t made specifically for them. But producer Will Packer, the man behind hits such as Think Like A Man and Ride Along, could see the opportunity.
In speaking of the film’s fight to find funding, Packer said:
There were a lot of road blocks and a lot of pitching and convincing, because we were asking people to invest tens of millions into a project that hadn’t ever been done before.
This is essentially the problem facing many Black artists and entertainers: You have to have proof that you’ll be successful to get financial backing from large production houses. But, if Black art is so rarely supported, it is incredibly hard to make that case.
The Need For Representation
The fact that a comedy led by 4 black women has never happened before is already a travesty in itself. It’s outright and unexpected success is the newest example of why we need better representation in film.
As Viola Davis so eloquently stated in her 2015 Emmy acceptance speech, “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else, is opportunity.”This film proves, once again, that Davis was right. When Black women are given access, critically important and wildly profitable results follow.
Movies like Girls Trip are a total win-win situation for all parties involved. For audiences, they receive the representation they are thirsty for. For studios, they get a healthy profit.
Judging by Girls Trip‘s total take so far and its projected budget, the movie has netted approximately $68 Million for its studio Universal. That’s a return of over 200%. The fact that Hollywood is still blind to opportunities like these is a testament to the power of patriarchy and the racism that still permeates the casting calls in Hollywood.
Girls Trip is important because it is a strong reminder that movies about the lives of Black women can fill the seats at movie theaters. This movie reinforces the idea that white stories aren’t the only ones worth telling. It shows that when you give women of color opportunities, they create new, engaging, and unique art that audiences are clamoring for.
This isn’t by accident. It’s time more folks in the industry took notice.
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