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'Best Man Holiday,' 'Black Nativity' and 'Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas' Join Banner Year for Black Filmmakers

Photo of Susan Wloszczyna By Susan Wloszczyna | Thompson on Hollywood November 25, 2013 at 12:37PM

Joining what is proving to be a banner year for movies by black filmmakers including "12 Years a Slave," "Lee Daniels’ The Butler" and "Fruitvale Station": Three films with yuletide themes and settings timed to the holiday season.
"Black Nativity"
"Black Nativity"

Joining what is proving to be a banner year for movies by black filmmakers  including "12 Years a Slave," "Lee Daniels’ The Butler" and "Fruitvale Station": Three films with yuletide themes and settings timed to the holiday season.

All come bearing plots that center on family and friends as well as source material that is already familiar to much of their target audiences. Where they differ is in tone and MPAA rating -- the better to spread the cheer among all ages.

'Best Man Holiday'
'Best Man Holiday'

"The Best Man Holiday," which opened to a strong  $30.6 million and nearly beat "Thor: The Dark World" in its second week, is an R-rated reunion of old friends that were first introduced in 1999’s comedy "The Best Man." Since that time, the careers of such cast members  as Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau Jr., Regina Hall, Sanaa Latham, Nia Long and Taye Diggs have taken off.

Even up against a record-smashing juggernaut like "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" this weekend, "The Best Man Holiday" worked its counterprogramming magic, pulling in an estimated sturdy $12.5 million -- good enough for third place behind "Thor" again -- for a total $50.4 million. 

“The reason for bringing everyone back could have been anything,” says Malcolm D. Lee, the writer and director of both "Best Man" films. “I had an idea in my head and had been writing down notes since 2005. Christmas seemed the perfect event since holidays are a time for reflection, looking at the year ahead and making resolutions.”

"Black Nativity," opening this Wednesday to take advantage of Thanksgiving, is an uplifting PG-rated musical. It expands upon Langston Hughes’ 1961 off-Broadway version of the birth of Jesus, and has become a holiday staple -- seen by about 250,000 people each year -- with a Harlem-based tale of how a reverend’s broken family learns to heal its past grievances.

Writer-director Kasi Lemmons ("Eve’s Bayou") has gathered a stellar cast headlined by Jennifer Hudson (in her first tune-filled movie since "Dreamgirls"), Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett . Joining them are such musical acts as Nas, Tyrese, Mary J. Blige (as a platinum Afro-sporting angel) and teen newcomer Jacob Latimore. Noted R&B producer Raphael Saadiq  took charge of the soundtrack, which features gospel  standards such as "Rise Up," "Shepherd," and "Follow" along with new songs including Hudson’s tearful  ballad, "Test of Faith."

Producer Celine Rattray says while the music is a major attraction, the family’s situation will touch many. “People are really moved by this emotional story,“ she says. “It’s coming out at a challenging period when there’s  a lot of emotional issues, and the film is about putting those differences aside. Many say it reminds them of their childhood. It has a lovely message.“

This article is related to: Features, Box Office, Box Office, Best Man Holiday, Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.