Just who are the most successful black producers in Hollywood? Well, according to the Producers Guild of America they are engaged in decision-making functions, script revisions, and casting decisions, among other things. Other criteria: individuals had to have produced five or more films; at least three of those titles had to have generated at least $50 million at the box office and rank among the top 100 highest grossing films during the year of their theatrical release. By Hollywood standards, a film’s worth is based on its box office returns. So, the top 10 are ranked by lifetime cumulative gross box office receipts worldwide.
For example: “Think Like a Man” was a breakout hit in 2012. It recorded $96.1 million in box office receipts worldwide on a production budget of $12 million. In fact, it was No. 1 at the box office for two weekends–a sweet spot for a film with a predominantly African American cast and produced by African American power brokers Will Packer and Rob Hardy of Rainforest Films.
Regardless of that recent box office triumph, getting a film produced and distributed is difficult. The harsh reality is no one African American has the power to green-light a film.
Another somber truth is that African American filmmakers face smaller production budgets, receiving around $10 million to $12 million whereas the average cost of a major movie studio film is more than $90 million.
Even entertainment powerhouse Tyler Perry still needs the go-ahead from Lionsgate to get his next movie made, although his films are a bankable $50 million-plus on average, says Darrell D. Miller, a partner at Fox Rothschild L.L.P. and chair of the Entertainment Law Department.
Still, Perry arguably has the most leverage of any one writer-director-producer can muster in Hollywood, says Miller. And a number of other African Americans filmmakers are getting projects made with the stamp of approval from Hollywood executives and are generating box office hits often through movies that have crossover appeal and translate well for international markets.
Here is the list of established black producers who are killing it at the box office and some newer faces of Hollywood making great inroads.
10 OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL BLACK PRODUCERS
10. WILL PACKER
Will Packer has been a Hollywood mover and shaker with cult films such as Trois and hits like Stomp the Yard. He landed diva Beyonce Knowles for the femme fatale thriller Obsessed, and culled a star-studded cast that included Paul Walker and Zoe Saldana for the crime story Takers. Packer is at the top of his game with the hit Think Like a Man, featuring an ensemble cast led by funnyman Kevin Hart. The movie adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best-selling relationship book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, ranks among the 25 highest-grossing films of 2012–pulling down $96.1 million worldwide. The key to success, he says, is building solid relationships, which includes knowing how to sell to talent, financiers, and distributors. Up next: No Good Deed, and a remake of About Last Night.
LIFETIME TOTAL GROSS:
$345.9 million (domestic),$382.1 million (worldwide)
HIGHEST GROSSING FILM:
“Think Like a Man”- $96.1 million worldwide
FILMS: “Think Like a Man,” “Takers,” “Obsessed,” “This Christmas,” “Stomp the Yard,” “The Gospel,” “Pandora’s Box”, “Trois”
9. O’SHEA “ICE CUBE” JACKSON
Hip-hop luminaries have transcended the sound booth to become marquee favorites, but O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson is a rapper turned actor-producer with Hollywood staying power. While best known for creating his widely popular Friday trilogy, Jackson wanted to give younger fans family-friendly movies. The devoted husband and father of four produced “Are We There Yet?”, which critics panned but went on to gross $97.9 million worldwide in box office receipts. The sequel, “Are We Done Yet?”, grossed $58.4 million worldwide.
The franchise spawned the TBS television series “Are We There Yet?”, with Jackson serving as the show’s executive producer. Next up: another installment of the Friday series, and “Eye for an Eye,” a TV series developed with FX about a paramedic seeking vengeance.
LIFETIME TOTAL GROSS:
$455.6 million (domestic), $486.6 million (worldwide)
HIGHEST GROSSING FILM:
“Are We There Yet?”- $97.9 million worldwide
FILMS: “First Sunday,” “The Longshots,” “Are We Done Yet?”, “Beauty Shop,” “Are We There Yet?”, “Barbershop 2,” “Friday After Next,” “All About the Benjamins,” “Next Friday,” “The Players Club,” “Friday,” “Dangerous Ground