George Lucus had to finance the $100 million dollar RED TAILS war film about the highly decorated Tuskegee Airmen all by himself after big money in Hollywood doubted a film with an all-Black lead cast would make enough money. Lucas felt that this great story needed to be told. And strong box office numbers on Friday, where the film grossed $6 million dollars seem to be confirming that George Lucus did the right thing by producing this film which is becoming highly acclaimed and earning strong critical approval. The film is so good that the White House set up a special screening of the film, and former President George H. W. Bush attended a special screening with lead actor Terrence Howard as well. Howard said that the former president just loved the film. At just age 18, Bush became the youngest Navy pilot and was shot down by the Japanese. Bush’s wife actually cried during the screening, because she was so touched.
With so many big box office failures this past Summer, including COWBOYS & ALIENS and the new version of CONAN, the purse strings that finance the films in Hollywood have grown more tight. Certainly, it made some producers in Hollywood look very bad when they refused to fund such a significant story with an all-Black lead cast, but the economy is having a huge impact on Hollywood. More and more, the movies that are being made are on a smaller budget because it just seems to make more economic sense right now. Huge budget films are a big risk right now as movie goers don’t always want to spend a lot on every film right now.
As the real Tuskegee Airmen diminish in number from old age, George Lucas didn’t want to wait any longer to retell their inspiring story of this elite group of pilots, who had to combat not only the Axis, but racism in the military as well. Many of these former airmen went on to become doctors, lawyers, educators or top professionals. They were truly an elite force of very intelligent men who risked their lives, where not one single bomber was lost while under their escort. It was an amazing record of success considering the amount of danger involved.
Certainly, George Lucus is going to look closely at the box office numbers from this weekend on Sunday evening and hope that it made financial sense to make this great movie. That’s one heck of a standard, but the new economics of Hollywood will probably make big production, but significant, films like RED TAILS more of a rarity for the near future. Right now it just makes more economic sense to produce a cheap comedy, and score an acceptable enough box office weekend. But, such a standard will hardly produce many movie classics.