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What Studios Have Released The Highest Number Of Black Films In The Last 2 Decades?

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 22, 2013 12:16 PM
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Hollywood Sign

To summarize (expect a longer post on this project later; consider this a tease), Vanessa and myself have been working diligently on creating a sortable database of all the "black films" that have been released theatrically between 1990 and 2012

Why only go back to 1990? Other than the fact that it's a lot of work to compile all the data, 1990 seemed like a good starting point - one that gives us a snapshot of where contemporary "black cinema" stands.

Also worth noting - the available annual release information on films (online anyway, which is what we used for our research) starts to get a little murky pre-1990, especially where non-studio "black films" are concerned. So 1990 and on, felt safe.

How are we defining "black films"? Simple: films that tell stories primarily about characters of African descent. A black person's story has to be the film's centerpiece. So, for example, we didn't include any interracial buddy cop movies like 48 Hours, or the Rush Hour franchise of films. 

While I won't guarantee that we counted every single "black film" during the 1990 to 2012 years, I'm very confident that our margin of error is very low.

As you can imagine, it was quite a tedious endeavor for both Vanessa and myself, but very well worth it, because we plan to manipulate the data in a variety of ways, and see what we can learn about how far "black cinema" has come in the last 23 years. The database includes almost every major item you'd want to know about any film. Sure, that information can be found on a variety of websites online, but nothing like what we have, all in one location, sortable, chartable, etc.

We tend to talk in generalities about where "black cinema" is, but it's so much more empowering and invigorating when one is actually able to look at hard data. Nothing beats facts!

So for the next few weeks, we'll be working to clean up the data, and start to really play with it to see what we learn, and we'll of course be sharing all of our findings right here on S&A. The eventual goal is to make this database accessible to all, once it's where we need it to be.

Today, I thought I'd tease you with an example of what's to come. Specifically, the chart you see below, as the title states, shows the studios with the most "black film" releases between 1990 and 2012. The top 20 studios to be exact. There are other companies that released 1 or 2 films within those 22/23 years, but when I included them all on the chart, it just didn't look very good, and it was hard to separate each one, because of how tightly they were packed together. So I settled on just the studios with at least 3 "black film" releases, which conveniently totaled 20, making the chart much easier to read, a you can see.

I should note that the studios listed below include all the consolidating that's happened in the time period. For example, New Line Cinema released several "black films" in the 1990s, but it eventually became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. So I'm placing all New Line Cinema films under Warner Bros.

But there's a lot more to come - and not just charts - that'll identify trends, patterns, dominant themes, etc, in "black cinema" over the last 23 years, whether covering the entire period, or specific years within, for comparison. And as we continue to unveil more of what we find, the more we'll learn about how far "black cinema" has come, and where we are today.

Of course, from here on, we'll add to the database as more films are released theatrically, including 2013 and forward.

Here's the sample tease I mentioned above. Click on the image for a larger view:

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  • BLACKMAN | September 6, 2013 7:47 PMReply

    sHADOW AND aCT makes SO many ERRORS, I do not know if I can believe this. Where is your research breakdown? sources?

  • mlt | August 23, 2013 7:46 AMReply

    if possible, if this does not exist, can we also get or be directed to box office of these films. it seems the common fallacy by producers of content and academics is one that diminishes the financial return of Black Films. If so, in my research the goal is to show if not propose that most black films, do not lose money.

  • mlt | August 23, 2013 7:43 AMReply

    Thanks for this site and this infomration. I am working on my Phd by focusing on Black Film so this and any conversation is excellent. I concur with most here, it would be helpful if the list can quantify some type of number each studio represented on the chart produced. Also, I like how you have defined black film. My thesis is looking at how black film is viewed by audiences across the diaspora (America, Britain, Africa). I look forward to the next installment. What a great Tease by the way, this site is becoming a great resource for me everytime I click on a link.

  • IGBO | August 23, 2013 4:41 AMReply

    The number of independent distributors on the list is encouraging. However, shouldn't Urbanworld be listed here? They have distributed at least three black films during the period covered by the chart.

  • Masha Dowell | August 22, 2013 8:56 PMReply

    Thanks for creating this list Vanessa and Tambay!

  • mk | August 22, 2013 7:13 PMReply

    Interesting concept. Even better if you were to include the total number of films released per company, and add this data to the chart for comparison.

    For example, a company having released in the past 23 years a total 10 films out of which 8 are black films will appear to have a different agenda than a company with a total of 500 films out of which only 10 are black films.

  • Phred G | August 22, 2013 8:41 PM

    Good point! I hope it is considered whilst they 'play with' the numbers. Still, pretty good for a teaser.

  • Guy | August 22, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    Are counting Screen Gems under the Sony?

  • Dankwa Brooks | August 22, 2013 12:40 PMReply

    This database sounds AWESOME! I just finished reading 'Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films' by Donald Bogle and while he does go back to the early 20th century 1990 does seem like a good jump off.

    As marginalized as we have been in the industry there still was an abundance of work we have done in film and thus should be documented.

  • Phred G | August 22, 2013 6:28 PM

    I agree. I read T,C,M,M&B also. This will be a great resource. As one who IMDBs every film/tv show dvd while watching it, I appreciate the effort. CarryOn.

  • Keith | August 22, 2013 11:49 AMReply

    Awesome! Just fyi, I (and I'm assuming others) would freely donate to this project if there was a donate button.

  • No | August 22, 2013 9:10 AMReply

    "How are we defining "black films"? Simple: films that tell stories primarily about characters of African descent. A black person's story has to be the film's centerpiece. "

    In order for this to have any modicum of objectivity, you at least have to post the titles, for example, those 56 "black films" that Warner Bros produced from 1990 to the present.

    Thus far you have given not one title of any films that fit your own definition of a "black film."

    Interestingly, you exclude "48 Hours, or the Rush Hour franchise of films" but don't cite those you would define as a "black film."


  • Um No | August 22, 2013 1:03 PM

    Pull the panties out your ass and sit down.

  • Head in hands | August 22, 2013 10:15 AM

    Another in support of Nadia's comment.

    A sad corollary of the internet's capacity for instant gratification is some people's unbelievable and shameless sense of entitlement.

    I swear 90% of the time people don't even read the main copy and head straight to the comments to get their two pence worth off their chest. It's an addiction! A compulsion!

    Anyway, really looking to seeing more of this study. Great project, S&A guys!

  • Nadia | August 22, 2013 10:00 AM

    Jesus! Always have to look for something to complain about. Always glass half empty. The man did say in the post that this was just a tease and that there's a lot more to come. He didn't say this was the entire story. It's a tease. Besides he gives a definition in the post: films that tell a story that's centered on a black character. Isn't that clear enough? Do 48 hours and Rush Hour fit that description to you? Use your head. Relax. It's a little too soon to be all contentious and shit. Wait to see what else is posted. Appreciate the work that's been put into it. Take a clue from the person who commented below you. Godamn people!

  • haitiansensation | August 22, 2013 2:31 AMReply

    this is great!!!!! looking forward to seeing more!!

  • Carl | August 22, 2013 1:02 PM

    @NO...please shut the fuck you whiny bitch. Mountain out of mole hill much. Here, have some kleenex and take nap ya fuckin baby.

  • Nadia | August 22, 2013 11:50 AM

    Once again, he defines what a black film is, and then gives you examples of what it's not. That's more than enough to start. If you can't determine what a black film is based on that definition and the examples he gives on what it's not, then, that's on you. Also you either trust the writers or you don't. And if you don't, then what are you doing here? Regardless, my overall point again is, given how much work that must have gone into this, your very first comment should be something a bit more encouraging and appreciative of the effort, not jump right in like you want to fight. This is why we can't have nice things like this, because people like you have to whine about something. Appreciate the effort first, wait to see what else is coming since it's just a tease, before putting fingers to keyboard.

  • No | August 22, 2013 10:53 AM

    You can't put up such a chart and not deliver on the basic information as to what entails a "black film" and not show the examples.

    This would not pass a basic statistical or social science course. The team could have easily added a list to their examples. In short, this doesn't prove anything unless you release at the same time the very examples you are claiming.

    The team couldn't create a hyperlink to their examples?

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