This past weekend, three of the top five films at the box office featured black protagonists.
Sony's (SNE) "The Dark Tower" likely had Idris Elba to thank for its No. 1 showing, as many moviegoers no doubt hope that the Stephen King adaptation serves as a warm-up for a future "James Bond" outing. Fellow newcomer "Kidnap," starring Halle Berry, opened to a solid $10.2 million despite its release from a novice distributor, Aviron Films. And "Girls Trip," an R-rated comedy from Universal (CMCSA) that stars four black women, grossed $11.3 million in fourth place, good for an $85.4 million total through its third weekend.
In fact, "Girls Trip" is already the year's highest-grossing comedy and will ultimately surpass the lifetime total of "Bad Moms" ($113.3 million) to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy in three years.
That's an impressive showing for a film that was produced for $19 million and highlights a fact that studios are slowly coming to realize: blockbusters do not need to star white male protagonists in order to be successful. In fact, some of the year's most profitable films have starred people of color. 20th Century Fox's (FOXA) "Hidden Figures" and "The Big Sick" from Amazon Studios (AMZN) both crossed over from specialty releases to mainstream hits this year, blowing past expectations in an industry that still seems consistently surprised by the success of films that don't center around white characters.
The profitability of these films should come as no shocker, though, considering that about half of movie ticket sales in the U.S. come from people of color, as per research from the Motion Picture Association of America.
"Audiences like to see themselves reflected on the big screen," said comScore (SCOR) senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "And when that representation is coupled with a great movie, it's magic."
One of the best-reviewed movies of the year--as well as the most profitable, based on revenue to production cost--is "Get Out," a social satire from Jordan Peele and Universal's Blumhouse. The film cost $5 million to produce and has grossed $252.4 million worldwide, an incredible return on investment for Universal.
The thriller quickly developed a reputation among moviegoers as a must-see when it opened in February, both for its campy thrills and its commentary on race relations in modern-day America. The villains of the movie are white people who profess to being socially conscious while actually engaging in racist activity--a perfect film to capture the zeitgeist a month after Trump's inauguration.
"The good movies are like tuning forks: they resonate with the culture," added Dergarabedian.