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, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It achieved the high numbers despite the fact that “Django,” from The Weinstein Co/TWC., 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 goes after Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, the ruthless master of a plantation.
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.
Of Django’s top ten-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. Other theaters drew a mixed audience, including the AMC Empire 25 in New York City and the Regal Atlantic Stadium 16 in Atlanta.
Other top ten 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 ten theaters for “Django’s” fellow holiday releases “The Hobbit: An Unexpected 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 ten list. Conversely, Foxx’s Ray, released in 2004, played to a predominately black audience.
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 people, and some who agree with Lee have 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.