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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: What is Hollywood’s problem with Red Tails?

Red Tails

You know, there are days when I just want to give it all up and go live under a rock somewhere. From The Hollywood Reporter:

George Lucas is quite frank about why Hollywood studios turned their backs on his Tuskegee Airmen action film, Red Tails: they didn’t want to put money into a film featuring an all-black cast.

Lucas explained Monday on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, “It’s a reasonably expensive movie. Normally black movies, say Tyler Perry movies or something, they’re very low budget. Even they won’t really release his movies, it goes to one of the lower, not major distributors…And this costs more than what those movies make.

He continued, “They don’t believe there’s any foreign market for it and that’s 60 percent of their profit…I showed it to all of them and they said ‘No. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.’ ”

They don’t know how to market a patriotic action movie from George Lucas? Forget the myth of “liberal Hollywood” — Hollywood is about making money. And this seems like a no-brainer.

According to THR, Lucas:

put $58 million of his own money into the movie and is spending $35 million more for its distribution.

So that’s why it’s getting released at all… which is happening this Friday on 2,500 screens across North America. (There’s no U.K. release date set yet.) And of course it’s a good thing that Lucas is spending his money in this way, supporting a film that he is passionate about and has spent more than two decades shepherding to the big screen. (In case you’re getting ready to rant about how Lucas sucks as a filmmaker lately, know that he’s only producing; the film is written by John Ridley — who has a story credit on Three Kings and cowrote the script for Steve “Shame” McQueen’s next movie, Twelve Years a Slave — and Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder; and it’s and directed by TV Anthony Hemingway.)

What is Hollywood’s problem with Red Tails? Is it “merely” racism trumping easy profit? Is it just the typical Hollywood bigotry that keeps anyone who isn’t white and male and straight from dominating the screen? Does it look like something you’d pay to see? (I’m curious to know what my non-American readers think in this regard. Check out the trailer if you haven’t already.) Do you think it will do well? Feel free to guess the weekend box office…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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