Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterback: The Mockingjay Part 2 edition

Problem: The fourth installment of The Hunger Games film franchise opened lower than expected.

(Retroactive) solution: Target the underserved markets that were represented in the film.

How could the Power of Diversity translate into a bigger box office for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2?

Here is a SWOT analysis of the film, followed by four concrete ways to get more butts in seats:

  • Mockingjay Part 2's opening weekend box office was $101 million domestic and $247 million worldwide
  • Jennifer Lawrence stars in the franchise that made her a household name, along with a passel of other famous actors
  • Three prior success blockbusters, based on the beloved series of books

  • Lower opening weekend than the previous three films, not accounting for either inflation or increase in ticket prices since the first film opened in 2012 
  • 17% decline in box office from Part 1's opening weekend
  • Not enough new elements to justify splitting the third book into two movies
  • Not enough story, too many characters with nothing to do  
    • For reals, y'all. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are doing what they can with what they have, and Jena Malone is throwing shade and chewing up scenery. But they could contribute so much more with their own arcs, regardless of the source material in the book. Stanley Tucci deserves more than a propo intro. See Gosford Park for how to manage an engaging, yet large, cast of characters.

  • The Hunger Games has been marketed everywhere. But it doesn't look special, with no commemoration for the end of the series, like Twilight did. Remind audiences this is the last movie, so make it an event and go see it in the theater. Encouraging people to dress up like Katniss would have been nice.

  • Star Wars. The seventh film doesn't open till December of this year, but the big marketing push started before Mockingjay Part 2 debuted. With audiences being fed messaging about The Force Awakens in areas like ABC's TGIT and Wal-Mart commercials, the latest Hunger Games movie seems like old news.
  • The other films opening the same weekend as Mockingjay Part 2:
    • The Night Before, with promotions mirroring the ubiquity of Mockingjay, but with humor
    • Secret in Their Eyes, which is a more prestigious Taken
    • Legend, something about Tom Hardy?
    • Carol, a Cate Blanchett movie with minimal indie promotion

If I did it...

1. Announce that North America will have its first black woman President. And explain how she gets her perm done in post-apocalyptic Panem.

This is a female-driven franchise. But "white women" does not equal "all women." Not by a long shot.

If Lionsgate had asked Patina Miller to appear on daytime talk shows, late night talk shows, radio shows, podcasts, blogs, or a well-placed tweet promoting Mockingjay Part 2, mentioning that b-t-dubs, I'm going to be America's next President--tying the movie into the relevance of the current election season, then maybe "Mockingjay Part 2" would have been trending on its opening night.

And maybe more black women than solely me would have made seeing the movie a priority and shown up opening weekend.

2. Cast more than one person of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in a speaking role, preferably one who has a large fan base in China. The country, with a population of 1.4 billion people, is the world's second-largest box office market, as well the movie's second largest box office market.

3. Cast one identifiably Hispanic or Latin@ person anywhere in the film.

It's 2015. Hispanic and Latin@ audiences drive the domestic box office. How do you have no Hispanic or Latin@ representation in a movie set in North America and expect to have a robust domestic opening weekend?

4. Give Evan Ross a line. Or anything of significance to do, besides being another dead black man. Boggs already filled that quota, along with achieving Magical Negro status.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Less white men. More Asian women. Now.

[tl;dr: Most movies star white men. Most movies should star Asian women.]

The picture above fuels my work.

The picture below does, too.

 Population Reference Bureau

The second picture is a pie chart representation of the world's population, by continent and country, both in 2014 and in 2050, from the Population Reference Bureau.

Focusing on the 2014 chart, here are the populations of each continent or region, in order of bigness:

Asia: 4.4 billion

Africa: 1.1 billion

Europe: 740.7 million

Latin America/Caribbean: 618.1 million

North America: 353.4 million

Oceania: 38.6 million

Now, here are the percentages of the world population that each continent or region comprises:

Asia: 61%

Africa: 15%

Europe: 10%

Latin America/Caribbean: 8.6%

North America: 4.9%

Oceania: 0.5%

This means 61% of the world's population, or over 3 out of 5 earthlings, live in Asia. Over 37% of the world's population lives in two Asian countries: China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion). India also has the largest English speaking population in the world (1.2 billion).

15% of the world lives in Africa. Combined with Asia, over 75% of the people on Planet Earth live on two continents. Most of these individuals would be described as "people of color", or as I like to call them, colorful people. Additionally, women make up approximately 50% of the world population.

Therefore, 1 in 3 people on Planet Earth is an Asian woman.

Keep this in mind as we look at some box office numbers.

In 2015, the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism published Inequality in 700 Popular Films, a study of gender, race and ethnicity in films from 2007 to 2014. The study found that of the 100 top-grossing films in 2014, only 21% had a female lead or co-lead, only 17% had a nonwhite lead or co-lead, and over 73% of all the characters were white. In the films studied from 2007 to 2014, only 30% of all the characters were female.


China has the second largest box office in the world. Fellow Asian countries Japan, India, and South Korea come in third, sixth, and seventh, respectively. Mexico is eleventh.


In the summer of 2014, a study showed that the most avid moviegoers in the country with the world's largest box office, the United States/Canada, "are Hispanic women over the age of 25."Additionally, women made up 52% of the moviegoers and 50% of the ticket buyers in the US and Canada in 2014.

What I'm saying is, THERE'S A PROBLEM.

There's a problem when, in 2014, a Sony producer argues against Denzel Washington starring in future movies, because "the international motion-picture audience is racist" and "in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas."

Huh. Well, as The Root reported, Denzel Washington's 2014 Sony-produced movie The Equalizer ironically "went on to make $191 million at theaters worldwide, and almost half of the ticket sales were international." And, The Equalizer 2 is coming in 2017.

And the seventh Fast and Furious movie, starring black-ish actors Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, made over $1.5 billion this year, over 76% from international markets, over 25% from China alone.

There's a problem when a movie about the Genesis story of Noah, which takes place in the Middle East, stars a white New Zealander, a white American, a white Welshman, and a white Englishman.

There's a problem when a movie called Aloha stars no Asians, Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders in general, and has a white American playing a hapa woman.

There's a problem when there are six films released in the last five years about Steve Jobs (13 altogether), but no films in the past ever released about Maya Angelou, Madeleine Albright, Sonia Sotomayor, Rita Moreno, Sandra Day O'Connor, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll...

For a visual example of what typical movie stars should look like, read my reaction to the movie 50/50 over here.