slavery, and the black struggle. Though noble, dignified and definitely critical in nature to broadening the cinema landscape, we appear to be in a period where escapist entertainment content is most preferred, particularly at Christmastime during which time families frequently go to the multiplex together. That would explain why audiences chose movies this past weekend like the sequel to National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which took the top spot for the second consecutive week with $35.6 million, followed by Alvin and the Chipmunks, which earned $30 million and Will Smith’s I Am Legend, which made $27.5 million.
What’s arguably most damaging with regard to The Great Debaters as it relates to Hollywood, is that it is almost certain that future African American period films could face challenges getting Hollywood funding. After all, if super stars Denzel and Oprah couldn’t put bodies in seats, the studios will ask, who can? Nevertheless, despite the woes of The Great Debaters and other black period films, given where audiences’ tastes seem to lie at the moment, cable might continue to be the best option for such movies going forward. It was after all cable that gave life to such critically acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning period films about the black experience as The Tuskegee Airmen, Miss Evers Boys and Something the Lord Made. And given that African Americans watch more cable than any other ethnic group, according to recent studies, the tube is debatably the best place to capture viewers with more intelligent, thought-provoking films.
Regrettably, it looks like the best hope for The Great Debaters for the big screen at this point is that it might garner Oscar noms, generating more buzz and hopefully more ticket buyers. But now that the holidays are over, if you haven’t already seen it, be sure to treat yourself to a celebration of black greatness. Trust me. You’ll be happy you did.