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The Top 10 Grossing Black Films Of 2013

by Tambay A. Obenson
December 30, 2013 1:47 PM
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Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER
Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER

Part 2 of my 2013 Black Cinema summary. 

If you missed Part 1, the intro to it all, click HERE to catch up.

Once again, I'm defining "black films" 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.

Today, I've narrowed the 48 total "black films" released theatrically in 2013 (48 out of 669 total films), down to the 10 highest theatrical money makers.

Yes, I know, box office isn't/shouldn't be the only mark of success for any film; but, as already noted, this is one post (the second) in an ongoing series of posts that will look back on the year 2013 in black cinema. Meaning, there'll be other posts that consider other factors, so stay tuned.

I should note that of the year's top 10 grossing black films, Tyler Perry-directed films take up 2 slots.

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. 

And total box office (domestic) for all 48 black films is around  $670 million, or about 6.2% of the total 2013 box office for all films ($10.8 billion). Figures are of yesterday's results; with 2 days left to go until the year ends, I wouldn't expect those figures to change much at all.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 grossing black films (as I defined above) released theatrically in 2013), from last to first:

10 - Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, $32,244,051 

9 - 12 Years a Slave, $37,814,000 

8 - A Haunted House, $40,041,683 

7 - Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, $43,719,000 

6 - The Call, $51,872,378 

5 - Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, $51,975,354 

4 - After Earth, $60,522,097 

3 - The Best Man Holiday$70,279,000 

2 - 42, $95,020,213 

1 - Lee Daniels' The Butler, $116,146,955

My source for box office figures for each film was Box Office Mojo.

More on the year in black cinema coming...

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  • Boykin | April 8, 2014 6:51 PMReply

    actually, Tambay, Box Office is the only mark of success for a film.

  • Oliver | December 30, 2013 8:02 PMReply

    I think we're cheating ourselves by not including forgien box office. Our biggest celebrates like will and denzel bring in overseas dollars. AfterEarth broke over 100million worldwide.

  • Black cinema Griot | December 30, 2013 4:48 PMReply

    I think special accolades (not because of the content - I found it immensely problematic and unbelievable) should be given to "The Butler" because it was one Of the rare instances where a Black film broke the $100M mark. This RARELY happens. Tyler Perry hasn't even done it yet.

  • buju | December 31, 2013 9:04 AM

    If "The Call" is a black film, why isn't I Am Legend?

  • Joke | December 31, 2013 8:21 AM

    I am making a point of Tambay's criteria of what constitute a black film.
    He said it's any film with an african descendant actor as the central character.
    Do you agree or not?

  • CC | December 31, 2013 5:55 AM

    Now Joke, if you're being serious (I don't believe you are but I'll play along), the best way to answer your question is with a question. Why on earth would you or anyone even consider "I am Legend" as a black film? What, any film with a black lead should automatically be considered for the tag " black film"?

    Come on man, if you're serious (you can't be) surely you know that I am Legend does not even fit the loosest criteria for being considered as a black film.

    But maybe you are serious so I'll give you the benefit of doubt. Why do YOU believe I am Legend is a black film?

  • Joke | December 31, 2013 2:57 AM

    @cc, so why don't you consider "I am legend" a black film?

  • CC | December 30, 2013 10:05 PM

    NO! @ Joke, under Tambay's criteria none of Denzel's current film's nor Will Smith's (except After Earth) would be considered a "black" film.

    In reference to Denzel, one would have to go back to his days with Spike Lee to find him in a black movie. Even The Book Of Eli directed by the Hughes Brothers - under Tambay's criteria - should not be considered a black film.

    And please, why are some having a hard time determining what constitutes a black film?

    "People of African descent have to be central to whatever unfolds". What's difficult about that?!

  • Joke | December 30, 2013 6:13 PM

    @black cinema riot
    Well according to tambay's criteria on what is defined as a black film, most of Denzel Washington and nearly all of will smith's films have broken the $100m mark.

  • roberto | December 30, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    The Call actually made over 68 million including international receipts

  • Monique A Williams | December 30, 2013 3:13 PMReply

    I didn't watch A Haunted House, but proud of Marlon's efforts.

  • Donella | December 30, 2013 8:10 PM

    A Haunted House went under nearly everyone's radar. Most of the horror excitement was for The Conjuring and Mama and the Purge.

  • Curtis Caesar J | December 30, 2013 2:11 PMReply

    The Call made THAT much money! I didn't know it was even in theaters long enough to.

  • Kevin | December 30, 2013 7:04 PM

    The Call did not get much publicity, but it was a really good film. Glad it made a lot of money.

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