Crispus

Monday, June 07, 2004

"Soul Plane" Grounded?

Actor Joseph C. Phillips has a critique of Soul Plane, an urban comedy film filled with black stereotypes. You may remember him as Denise's husband on "The Cosby Show," plus he was on "General Hospital." The conservative Republican basically outlines a libertarian response to a panel discussion where he was a participant:

"And as was the case in similar discussions 20 years ago participants were adamant that Black audiences wouldn't become so outraged over stereotypes in films like Soul Plane if we also had films in the manner of House of Sand and Fog or Sleepless in Seattle to balance them.

Markets, however, do not work like that. Balance cannot be forced into the market place. Demand must be built and the balance we would all enjoy will follow. For 20 years black audiences have demanded the same thing.

In 1997 Warner Brothers spent 31 million dollars on John Singleton's Rosewood. Rosewood is the dramatization of the true story of a black town in Florida that in 1923 was burned to the ground by a white mob bent on avenging the rape of a white woman. This is the sort of film I think Saturday's audience would agree is the kind of substantive film we would like to see more of. Rosewood opened to a paltry 3.1 million dollars and only grossed 13 million dollars by years end. The following week Columbia Pictures opened the modestly budgeted Booty Call. Booty Call made 8 million dollars that weekend and grossed 20 million for the year. The following month New Line cinema released the low budget romance (a film I enjoyed) Love Jones. Love Jones opened with 3.9 million dollars and only grossed 12 million for the year.

Eves Bayou (another film I enjoyed) opened in November of '97 with Rosewood type numbers while Players Club, like Booty Call before it, opened with more than 8 million dollars and a gross of more than 23 million for the year. Black folks - not white folks -- stood in line waiting to see Booty Call and Players Club -- just as they will stand in line Friday to see Soul Plane -- while avoiding Rosewood, Eves Bayou, Beloved and a long list of other more substantive fare like the plague.

Hollywood is not sinister! Hollywood is giving black folks what they want. My experience in Hollywood is that these folks do not like to leave money on the table. The marketing of Soul Plane along with the fact that every stereotypical image in Soul Plane is voraciously eaten up by the hip-hop culture and every rap artist currently making a video is proof of the high demand for this type of shucking and jiving. I have a sick feeling the box office results following the memorial day weekend will sadly reveal that we will be seeing much more of it."


He's right. If black folks want Hollywood to stop pumping out these "keepin' it real" flicks, then we must stop supporting such flicks. Luckily, it looks like black folks are grounding Soul Plane. It cost over $18 million to make, but has only grossed $8.3 million in its first two weeks despite a ton of publicity. Assuming its week-to-week revenues continue to drop by half, it won't make a profit.

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