Here's Why the Success of 'Girls Trip' Is a Big Win for People of Color

July 24th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Two ensemble comedies about old friends reuniting for a debauchery filled trip are in theaters this summer.

"Rough Night," hit theaters in June and has a mostly white cast, including Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon.

"Girls Trip," released on July 21, has an all black cast, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah.

Despite arguments that movies starring black characters are less financially viable, "Girls Trip" found more box-office success than "Rough Night."

Excuses for the much publicized diversity problem in Hollywood often center around money, with some arguing that movies with minority leads are riskier financially than movies with white movies stars. "Because there's so much money on the line—it can take $100 million (including marketing costs) to get a hit studio film off the ground—there's an extreme reluctance to take chances when it comes to casting and choosing directors, experts say," wrote LA. Weekly's Dennis Romero in 2015. "A white man can seem like a safe choice, especially now that half a film's revenue can come from overseas markets, markets that often are paying to see a certain vision of American culture."

However, "Rough Night," the story of a mostly white group of friends traveling to Miami for a bachelorette party, had a disappointing run at the box office, while "Girls Trip," the story of a group of black women traveling to the Essence Festival in New Orleans, made more money in its first weekend than "Rough Night" has since it came out 5 weeks ago.

"Girls Trip" drew more than $30 million for the weekend, while "Rough Night" has earned $21 million over the life of its run.

Other movies led by black women have also been a box office success. In January the film "Hidden Figures" beat the Star Wars film "Rogue One" at the box office. "Hidden Figures" star Taraji P. Hensen posted her excitement about the movie's box office success and used it as evidence that black women can pull big box office numbers.

"I have been told my entire career, 'Black women can't open films domestically or internationally,'" she wrote. "Well anything is possible. Most importantly this proves that PEOPLE LIKE GOOD MATERIAL. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER OR RACE. Agreed?! "

In response to the success of "Girls Trip," CNN Opinions Contributor Jeff Yang tweeted that racism in Hollywood studios is costing everyone money, and the industry needs to re-evaluate the accepted thinking about movies with minority casts.

You can read Yang's full Twitter thread here.

Movies and TV shows with diverse casts are often financially successful.

A 2017 annual report by the Bunche Center at the University of California, Los Angeles found once again that audiences prefer movies and TV shows with "diverse content."


Films with "relatively diverse" casts had the highest media global box office numbers, and minorities bought the majority of ticket sales for five of the top-10 global box office films. Researchers found the consistent annual results of their industry analysis contradictory.

"On the one had, comprehensive analyses of talent in front of and behind the camera consistently revealed the woeful underrepresentation of people of color and women— particularly in lead roles and in the powerful positions responsible for deciding which stories get told," wrote the authors. "On the other hand, each of the reports have also documented the fact that diversity sells: theatrical films and television shows that more closely reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of America tend to excel at the box office and in viewer ratings."

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