African Americans Turn Out in Force for Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

 

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained -- starring Jamie Foxx as a slave in the pre-Civil War South -- is doing strong business among African-American moviegoers.

This despite the fact that Django, from The Weinstein Co., features more than 100 uses of the N-word, igniting a debate over whether the movie is racially insensitive.

But much as Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds sanctified violence against Nazis, Django targets another bad guy nobody can sympathize with -- a slave owner. When Foxx's character is freed by a bounty hunter, played by Christoph Waltz, the duo go after Leonardo DiCaprio's character, the ruthless master of a plantation.

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Opening on Christmas Day, 42 percent of Django's initial audience was black, according to exit polling data. TWC estimates that the percentage now is holding steady at about 30 percent, while a look at the top-performing theaters for Django further confirms that it has crossed over, playing to both white and black moviegoers.

"Django is playing well to African-Americans and to audiences across the board. You can't have these kind of numbers otherwise. It's getting everybody," TWC president of distribution Erik Lomis said.

Django has grossed $77.8 million so far in North America and has a strong shot at becoming Tarantino's most successful film at the domestic box office, eclipsing the $120 million earned by Inglourious Basterds in 2009. Sony is TWC's partner on Django and will handle the movie internationally.

Of Django's top 10-grossing theaters, three cater heavily to African-Americans: The Cinemark Egyptian 24 in Baltimore, the AMC Hoffman Center in Alexandria, Va., and the AMC Southlake 24 in Atlanta. And another three draw a mixed audience, including the AMC Empire 25 in New York City and the Regal Atlantic Stadium 16 in Atlanta.

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Other top 10 theaters for Django include AMC Regal Union Square in New York City and the ArcLight in Sherman Oaks. While these locations nearly always make the list of top-grossing theaters for any given film, the Egyptian and Hoffman Center don't as a rule pop up unless a movie crosses over, such as The Blind Side.

For example, none of the top 10 theaters for Django's fellow holiday releases The Hobbit: An Unepexpected Journey or Les Miserables are in heavily black communities.

There's no racial breakdown for the recent Denzel Washington drama Flight, though the Egyptian was the only black theater making the top 10 list.

Conversely, Foxx's Ray, released in 2004, played to a predominately black audience.

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When testing Django, TWC held two simultaneous screenings in New York. One audience was made up of African-Americans, while the other was a mixed audience (about 15 percent was African-American). The film received top, identical scores from the two audiences.

Just before Christmas, Spike Lee publicly chastised Tarantino for being "disrespectful" of black poeple and called for a boycott of Django.

Tarantino has maintained that he won't be influenced by what he calls social criticism. "I believe in what I'm doing wholeheartedly and passionately. It's my job to ignore that," he said in a December interview with THR.

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