The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has partnered with the buzzed-about upcoming film Dope for an opening night premiere at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). And in keeping with the spirit of the movie, the showing will be followed by a throwback, old-school 90s party.
The June 11 opening night showing will be the New York premiere of the movie. (The Los Angeles premiere will take place two days prior.) The MPAA will sponsor the event. The ABFF will run through the 17th. Directed and written by Rick Famuyiwa, the movie tells the story of Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore) and his efforts to survive “The Bottoms” section of LA and college admissions during the 90s with a little help from his two friends and the vibrant hip-hop music of the time.
While the MPAA has been supporting film festivals for decades, its efforts to reach a more diverse audience have ramped up more recently. In 2012, MPAA CEO and chairman Chris Dodd (a former US Senator) launched the Diversity and Multicultural Outreach program. Last year, for the first time, Dodd went to the ABFF in Los Angeles.
Also in 2014, according to John Gibson, the advisor for the MPAA’s diversity group, the movie industry’s “Big Six” studios (Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, and Walt Disney) also made a debut appearance at the ABFF.
This year, the festival has moved to New York and the MPAA’s presence will be prominently felt again.
MPAA activities include movie screenings, lobbying, anti-piracy and education. While it’s not involved with funding or greenlighting films, Gibson assured MadameNoire in a phone interview that the studios have gotten the message loud and clear that diversity is a consumer mandate. That’s a conclusion they came to after the incredible success of Furious 7. That movie made hundreds of millions in its opening weeks. And had an audience as diverse as its cast.
“Lots of people are paying attention to Universal and Furious 7,” said Gibson, noting that Universal is one of the few studios with a multicultural department. Gibson says the film industry is also taking cues from television. “When something is successful, people want to replicate it.”
This explains the formula for having a Black lead in the Star Wars films (started with the casting of Billy Dee Williams) and the deluge of remakes, reboots and sequels that we always see at the theaters. When the money is flowing in, the movie studios will support it.
Which brings Gibson to the other important point he wants to make about diversity in the movies: the damage that bootlegging does. The MPAA has a site, WhereToWatch.com, that spreads information about where you can legally see all sorts of entertainment.
“Especially for our community where so many filmmakers are self-financing, it’s important that their content does not get stolen,” Gibson said. “That’s why opening weekends are so important.” San Andreas’ monster opening was critical to that movie, he adds. And Furious 8 is already in the works.
For indie movies, this can be the difference between success and failure. And it’s critical if you’d like to see original content.
“Studios are putting effort behind making a difference,” said Gibson. “We must start supporting the next generation of content.”
For those who can’t make it to the ABFF next week, Dope opens in theaters on June 19.