I was seriously thinking about going to see Black Nativity this weekend. With no set plans for my Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening, I thought, ‘what a better way to get into the holiday spirit than to go see a holiday musical with gospel music and Angela Bassett?’ I mean, it is Angela Bassett, and the movie is based on the play of the same name by Langston Hughes. Yeah, I had all this on my mind, but then I was reminded of the following:
I can’t stand musicals of any kind.
There are some that I’ve been able to sit through without my face completely turned up, but I’ve found that I ask out loud “WHY DO THEY HAVE TO SING EVERYTHING!? JUST TALK!” at least a few times out loud in most musical films. That might explain why my friends weren’t too fond of sitting next to me when we saw Dreamgirls since I huffed and puffed through a few different parts. So with that, I stayed home and caught up on my shows before heading into the city to do some Christmas shopping. While the movie wasn’t necessarily for me, I thought it might appeal to others since one of my colleagues saw an early screening of the film and said she enjoyed it.
But according to Shadow and Act, that was not the case. Very few people saw it. In fact, most people must have either stuck to shopping, or spent their ducats on helping Hunger Games: Catching Fire have another triumphant weekend at the box office. Not only did Black Nativity not debut in the top five, it came in at number eight and only made $5 million, despite being made for $17.5 million. Hell, Best Man Holiday showed better (number four) after more than a week in cinemas.
So why didn’t you see it? In a funny yet serious piece for Shadow and Act, writer Sergio had quite a few ideas of why the movie wasn’t a banger, and one thing I could agree with most was that the promotions for the film didn’t explain enough (other than the fact that you were going to see a musical), and the trailer came off mad corny:
Despite the mostly very positive reviews, the film got stuck with a bland poster that said nothing, and the trailer made the film look like a very old fashioned, cornball picture, which also didn’t give a real idea of what the film was. Was it a musical, a drama or none of those? And seeing Mary J. Blige with wings and that awful white afro wig sure didn’t help matters at all.
Say that. If anybody asked me what I knew about the film before its release, I would just sing the following: “This ain’t livin’! I got a mouth to feed, but I can’t make these ends meet…” Of course, this is what we heard out of Jennifer Hudson’s mouth within the first few seconds of one of the few TV spots. Oh yeah, that and young actor Jacob Latimore saying, “It’s time to forgive!” with a great deal of passion/angst in his face. Yeah, that’s not all that enticing.
Despite all the film possibly had to offer, I never knew what exactly to expect, and it seems that other moviegoers didn’t either. And what we did know (struggling daughter estranged from her traditional parents after having a child young sends said child to stay with them for the holidays while she gets her life together), sounded like a plot we’d all seen or heard before. And yes, I’m still mad at Mary and that wig. Plus, as Sergio pointed out, there were very few other people, white folks included, who were going to jump at the chance to see a movie called “Black Nativity”–emphasis on black. We really were all this movie had to make a strong impression in theaters.
Despite the major names in Academy-Award winners Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker, as well as the star power and strong acting chops of Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, even they couldn’t draw you to theaters, as the movie might have been better suited for a Lifetime network holiday event since it didn’t receive much backing or promotion from famous black folks with influence (like Oprah, as was pointed out).
You still have a chance to check out the movie, as it just came out on Wednesday, but do you really want to? I’m sure that if you didn’t see it during a holiday weekend you probably won’t at all. But what kept or keeps you from spending your money to support the movie?