“Dreamgirls” Shine – Few are Able to See It
I logged into My Yahoo News on Sunday afternoon for my weekly ritual of checking the early box office returns. After viewing "Dreamgirls" last Thursday evening, my wife and I both wondered aloud how many millions the movie would make on its way to the number #1 spot. To my surprise, Ben Stiller's "Night at the Museum" was the top grossing film in North America, followed by Will Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness."
O.K. "Museum" at number one wasn't a shock, but what was most surprising was that "Dreamgirls" only grossed $18.7 million over the four-day weekend while finishing third. After a little further digging, I realized that "Dreamgirls" played in only 852 theaters around the country while "Museum" showed on 3,786 screens and "Happyness" on 2870 screens. According to Reuters, "Dreamgirls" will widen to about 1800 screens by January 12, just in time for the Golden Globes.
I'm sure that Paramount has its reasons for the limited release, but whenever a film with a mostly black cast debuts on so few screens, it fuels lots of negative speculation in the black community. When I was in my teens and movies like "Boyz 'N the Hood" or "Juice" didn't open at our local theatre, I would automatically blast the theatre owners as racist or unwilling to show black films for fear of the crowds.
On Monday's Tom Joyner Morning Show, the hosts debated this very topic, as they received calls from angry moviegoers who were unable to find "Dreamgirls" in their area. J. Anthony Brown went so far as to speculate that local movie houses probably turned down the movie because of the cast. I don't buy that, but neither can I buy Paramount releasing this movie on so few screens.
Being number one at the box office has a symbolic meaning. Theoretically the film still has a chance to make it to the top spot, and it would be nice to add Beyonce and Jamie Foxx to the recent number one turns of Denzel Washington in "Deja Vu" and the aforementioned Smith vehicle. "Dreamgirls" should have its fair share of accolades over the next few months, and make plenty of money to boot.
I'll save my thoughts on the actual movie for the next post.