‘Black Panther’ unlikely to change Hollywood’s lie that black movies can’t make money Hollywood’s biases have proven themselves stronger than its commitment to the bottom line

Any hopes that Black Panther’s box office conquest will spur Hollywood to greenlight heavily-financed movies featuring Pan-African stories and performed by predominantly black casts must be muted. Racial discrimination is not a product of logic, but rather its antithesis.

Marvel Studios’ latest movie, based on the comic company’s first black superhero, is generating earth-shattering sums of money, amassing $235 million over the first four days of its release in the U.S. and Canada alone. Directed by a black man, 31-year-old Ryan Coogler, with nearly an all-black cast and powered by a $200 million budget, the film is filling Disney’s corporate coffers and delighting its largely white executive decision makers. With films featuring black casts rarely enjoying big budgets, Black Panther will show the financial rewards that Hollywood can reap with black movies rooted in uniquely black experiences.

Many hope the economic triumph of Black Panther will persuade studios to bankroll similar movies with nine-figure budgets. This hope is buoyed by simple logic: Once scenario A proves itself, others, likewise seeking economic success, will copycat. Black Panther’s achievement, therefore, should coax others to understand the financial wisdom in backing black blockbusters. Proof of concept opens opportunity to others, so the theory goes.

An unavoidable truth, however, must temper this expectation: Hollywood’s ongoing discrimination against black movies isn’t supported by logic and evidence, so why believe illogical people will amend their behavior based on evidence that they were wrong all along?

Movie studios would insist that the leading reason for not investing big bucks in predominantly black films is that international markets won’t support them. Comedian Bill Maher, in that vein, said of Asian moviegoers, “They don’t want to see black people generally in their movies. The Hollywood executives are, like, ‘We’re not racist, we just have to pretend to be racists because we’re capitalists. We want to sell our movies in China [and] they don’t like Kevin Hart.’” With Hollywood increasingly reliant upon international dollars to turn profits, overseas perceptions matter greatly.

This is where the illogicalness of racial discrimination pierces through and why we mustn’t expect Black Panther’s success to lessen discrimination’s prevalence in Hollywood: The idea that “black films” don’t make coins internationally has long been proven demonstrably false.

Go back 30 years to Coming to America, a comedy starring Eddie Murphy, released in 1988, which made $160.6 million internationally. Or look at the two Bad Boys action movies, led by actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, the original released in 1995 and the sequel in 2003. Together the films earned $210.3 million in foreign countries. The black superhero movie Blade, with Wesley Snipes playing a vampire as the lead, made $61 million internationally 20 years ago. The Fast and Furious franchise practically prints money in China, starring mixed-race Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and black actors Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson. And even the indie film Moonlight, with an all-black cast with no movie stars and a production budget of around $4 million, did $37 million internationally.

When a black movie rakes in the cash overseas, however, Hollywood insiders toss out an endless array of excuses as to why this or that black success story cannot be used to kill the assumption that black movies represent bad overseas investments.

Appealing movies with black casts can make money in foreign markets. The proof surrounds us. Just like movies featuring white leads, black movies need to be well-executed and appealing. If so, people across the globe will pay money to see them.

But why, then, does Hollywood swim against the current of evidence? Why do movie studios need proof of the concept when the concept has already been proven? The answers stare us in the face: These arguments about why black movies aren’t being greenlit are not being made in good faith; the strength of Hollywood’s biases against black movies are stronger than the commitment to the bottom line; sometimes logic is not enough to persuade people to behave in a racially fair way, particularly when discrimination pervades the entire industry.

Jeff Clanagan, president of Lionsgate’s Codeblack films, told the Los Angeles Times, “Every time there’s a success, it gets swept under the rug. … It’s almost like there’s an asterisk on it. They chalk it off as an anomaly.”

We should brace for something similar regarding Black Panther. Hollywood bigwigs will laud the movie as so unique that its appeal cannot be applied to the next black project in the pipeline waiting to be greenlit. Sure, we will get Black Panther sequels. But other movies rooted in blackness produced because of Black Panther’s success? History teaches us we should temper our expectations.

For now, a Hollywood that acknowledges the potential of black films is as fictional as Wakanda.

The fate of the ‘Furious’ director F. Gary Gray From Central L.A. to the world of superfast cars — and supersuccessful films — Gray has got a ticket to ride

The last time F. Gary Gray directed a movie, the world got an in-depth look at the area he grew up in. It was his 2015 Straight Outta Compton, the origin story of one of the best hip-hop collectives to ever step inside a recording booth. Rock & Roll Hall of Famers N.W.A. launched the careers of producer/impresario Dr. Dre and film star and mogul Ice Cube, both of whom have created multimillion-dollar empires and influenced not only hip-hop music, but Hollywood and culture as a whole.

Straight Outta Compton was a dream come true for Gray. It was one of 2015’s best reviewed films and it was the No. 1 movie in the country for three weeks in a row. This got the industry debating — again — the merits of black films, and how well they can do around the country and around the world. Gray had his pick of projects; certainly his name was tossed around as a contender to direct Marvel’s Black Panther. Then quite ceremoniously — on Twitter — Gray announced he’d be directing the next installation of the The Fast and the Furious franchise.

“The story and the challenge,” Gray said, explaining why he went with The Fate of the Furious, which opens on Friday. “Dom [Vin Diesel] going rogue is something that you’d never expect, if you follow the franchise at all. Dom goes into Darth Vader mode and does something that’s really surprising for a lot of the fans.” The story line is a major twist in the franchise, which this time is set in New York City, Cuba, and Iceland. “Then you combine all that with the biggest action heroes in the world, and sprinkle in a couple Oscar winners. I think that’s a great recipe for a fun ride.”

“Shooting in Cuba was profound for me.”

It’s also a recipe for another record-breaking box-office success story: $380 million globally is the prediction. The Fast franchise — this is the eighth film — destroys the notion that people of color can’t carry a film overseas. The films star a bevy of brown actors in various hues — Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Michelle Rodriguez — and does some of its best work in coveted international markets. The film’s seventh installment was its best (it also was the last for franchise star Paul Walker, who died in a 2014 car crash) and was, in terms of box office might, the fifth biggest film of all time.

Gray has done some of his best work telling diverse, well-rounded stories: 1995 cult classic Friday, 1996’s Set it Off, 2003’s The Italian Job, and 2009’s Law Abiding Citizen. “Globally, a lot of the fans can see themselves as one of the characters in these stories,” Gray said. “It feels inclusive and diverse.”

The success of the Furious film series didn’t scare Gray. It energized him. “I always want to top myself,” he said. “I always want to see what I can do that I’ve never done before.” He knows fans expect a certain spectacle from a Fast movie and believes he and his crew delivered on that. “But I wanted to push the limits of the story, the performances, the drama, and the humor. And add my twist to it. Am I nervous? Maybe a little,” he said. “But once you’ve defined what your goal is, it’s just about hitting that. How can we make this franchise, this movie, each installment, fresh — not only for the fans, but for newcomers? That was the goal.”

“Globally, a lot of the fans can see themselves as one of the characters in these stories,” Gray said. “It feels inclusive and diverse.”

Another goal? To challenge himself personally. And that mission was absolutely accomplished.

“Shooting in Cuba was profound for me. Sometimes as Westerners, you get comfortable, and when you go to a place like Cuba — you realize what things we take for granted,” he said. “Although you’re being creative and you’re shooting a movie, you walk away slightly changed, and hopefully better as a person, as a director, a storyteller.” He said he watched the Havana residents see Havana from the air for the first time as it brought tears to their eyes. “To see their beloved capital from a bird’s-eye view was profound for them, which made it profound for us.”

And if he can sharpen himself professionally, that’s the cherry on top.

“I’m walking into a franchise that has existed for 15-plus years. Actors who know their characters. And while I’ve worked with more than half of the principal cast, I had to change my approach. I had to adjust my approach to get performances,” he said. “I like to think I’m better for all of that.”

Daily Dose: 3/30/17 Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel are not friends

Clinton Yates isn’t here today. He’s finally auditioning for the next season of ABC’s The Bachelor.

Take that, college basketball. It’s long been debated by certain parts of the country that college basketball is better than the NBA. The NCAA men’s tournament has had its share of fantastic finishes over the past two weeks (see: Wisconsin-Villanova and North Carolina-Kentucky), but the pros showed Wednesday night why they’re the best in the world at what they do. Russell Westbrook had a 57-point triple-double, all but solidifying his MVP candidacy. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Matthew Brogdon and the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker both put up big-boy shots to lead their teams to victories. And the Golden State Warriors showed why they won a title two years ago and put up 73 victories last season, overcoming a 22-point deficit against the San Antonio Spurs to win by double digits.

The Rock vs. Vin Diesel, part two. In August 2016, The Fate of the Furious star Dwayne Johnson posted a cryptic diss on his Instagram about one of his castmates, referring to the unknown man as a “chicken s—” “candy a–.” It turns out he was beefing with Vin Diesel. While all hostility was reportedly squashed over the summer, new reports allege that the two blockbuster stars are being kept apart for the movie’s current press tour. Here’s to a “Rock Bottom” and “People’s Elbow” at the New York premiere next month.

The goalposts continue to be moved for the Trump family. It’s been well-documented that the expectations for former presidents don’t apply to the current administration (look at this helpful illustration). But things have gotten more complicated over the past few days. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka was given an official position (with security clearance) in the White House on Wednesday, despite zero government experience and in direct conflict with what the president said just four months ago. First lady Melania Trump is reportedly just now “easing into her role” two months after the inauguration. During Michelle Obama’s first two months back in 2009, the then-first lady was already visiting homeless shelters and soup kitchens and venturing out on solo missions at the G-20 summit in London.

Quick notes:

1. Ear-whisperer Lance Stephenson is back with the Indiana Pacers. In an unrelated note, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Pacers are the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds in the playoffs.

2. Convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez’s girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins has officially changed her name to Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez despite not being married to the former Patriots tight end. Ride-or-die.

3. Kevin Love explained why he’s not fat anymore.