The Butler

Expect a much more thorough write-up towards the end of the year, or early next year. Consider this a snapshot of how black cinema did in 2013, with 2 weeks left until the year ends, and the last black film of the year, now in theaters as of this past weekend - Tyler Perry's Madea Christmas.

I'll also compare this year's stats with previous years, in consideration of all the media proclamations that 2013 ushered in something of a new beginning ("new wave") for black cinema, suggesting that, in the future, we might be looking back at 2013 as the year when black cinema finally got its wings.

I'm defining "black film" simply as cinema in which the central character (or characters) that the stories revolve around, are of African descent - regardless of whether the filmmakers are all of African descent. If it's a documentary, the same definition applies. People of African descent have to be central to whatever unfolds.

So, for example, a film like 2 Guns didn't make the cut. And neither did Captain Phillips. Both featured black characters in significant roles, but, ultimately, both films weren't centered entirely around those characters. There are other similar examples.

The list of films I narrowed the entire year down to are at the bottom of this post.

So how did black cinema do in 2013? Here's a snapshot, with data as of last week Friday, December 13.

- 48 out of 641 films released this year (or about 7%) were black films.

- 22 of those 48 films were directed by filmmakers of African descent; 7 of the 22 are women filmmakers; 8 of the 22 were first-time feature film directors.
- 33 of the 48 films were fiction; 8 of those 30 were based on real life people/events; The vast majority were dramas (of the 48, there was 1 sci-fi movie, 1 horror, 1 comedy horror, and 1 musical), suggesting, as we've noted several times in the past, that when it comes to black cinema, the more fantastical genres (sci-fi, horror, thriller, fantasy, etc) remain woefully untapped with regards to feature films.
Tyler Perry directed 2 of the 48, and produced a 3rd.
- 30 of the 48 saw their widest releases at less than 100 theaters13 saw their widest releases at over 1000 theaters3 saw their widest releases at over 3000 theaters.
- Average number of days in theatrical run for all 48 films: 60, with the max being 182 and the minimum being 7.
- The highest grossing (domestic) black film of the year is Lee Daniels' The Butler at $116 million, making it the only black film to gross over $100 million this year. The top 5 grossers of the year after The Butler: 42, Best Man Holiday, After Earth, Tyler Perry's Temptation. The most fascinating thing about the top 5 is that After Earth (a high-profile, $130 million movie starring one of the world's biggest stars) is in 4th place. 
- Total box office (domestic) for the top 5 black films combined is less than the box office take for the #1 grossing film of the year: $391.9 million, compared to $409 million for Iron Man 3.
- Total box office (domestic) for all 48 black films is $620 million, or about 6.1% of the total 2013 box office for all films ($10.1 billion). Again, figures are of last week Friday's results, although I wouldn't expect those figures to change much at all, even if I included this weekend's (and the next 2 weekend's) numbers.
- 12 of the 48 black films were rated PG13; 12 were R-rated; The rest were Unrated.

- 6 of the 48 black films were released by Lionsgate; 4 by The Weinstein CompanyIFC, Fox Searchlight and Variance released 3 each2 each by AFFRMOscilloscope, and SonyArtMattan released 2. And Phase 4 Films released 1.

There's your 2013 in black cinema, albeit just a snapshot! 

I may have missed one or two films, using Box Office Mojo and IMDB as my primary sources. But the overwhelming bulk of black films released theatrically this year, are included here. If you're a distributor with a film that should be on this list, but isn't, please let me know. May I also suggest that if you are a distributor with a film released theatrically, and your film isn't listed with any of the major box office reporting sites, like a Box Office Mojo, it really should be.

As I said, expect a more thorough follow-up post, with even more stats - once I've compiled all that I need to - some time in the next couple of weeks. And also expect comparisons to previous years - especially recent years.

Here's the full list of 48 films:


12 Years a Slave

20 Feet from Stardom

A Band Called Death

A Haunted House

After Earth

American Promise

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Baggage Claim

Better Mus' Come

Big Words

Black Nativity

Blue Caprice

Call Me Kuchu

Fire in the Blood

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

Fruitvale Station

Gimme the Loot

Go For Sisters

God Loves Uganda

Holla II

I'm In Love With a
Church Girl

Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

La Playa D.C.

La Pirogue

Lee Daniels' The Butler

Let the Fire Burn


Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Mother of George

Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary


The Best Man Holiday

The Call

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

The Iran Job

The Square

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

The We and the I

Tyler Perry Presents Peeples

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

Una Noche

Venus and Serena

War Witch

Welcome to Pine Hill

Winnie Mandela