What the Success of “Get Out” Tells Us About the Long Ignored American Audience

I was fortunate enough to be part of the first audience- EVER to see Get Out while I was at Sundance. It was the highly anticipated Surprise Midnight screening of the year, and I had no idea what to expect since I played movie Russian Roulette while purchasing the ticket and had never been to a midnight screening before. I’m not a horror movie person, so as I listened to the speculating in the crowded line, I was initially disappointed.

As the room filled, I heard the excited buzz and saw Jordan Peele himself- looking anxious in the back, standing by a crop of chairs labeled for Universal executives. He came up soon after, to introduce his directorial debut, his brainchild.

As the film unraveled,it was obvious that Get Out was a homerun. There was dead silence at the most suspenseful parts, laughter, and cheers of victory for protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) as he destroyed his captors and escaped. As Jordan Peele reemerged, he was greeted to thunderous applause. More than just a horror or thriller, the film provides food for thought, and is filled with layers and layers of symbolism to dissect. Prior to the end of the Q&A, Patton Oswald once incognito, stood up with his cell phone and mentioned that the comments were insane on his live stream of the Q&A, and that the movie was going to be BIG.

screenshot_2017-02-22-12-49-28-1
Graphic Courtesy of 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report

And he was right. Get Out has been a huge box office success with over $33 million domestically (On a $4.5 budget too!), and has caused a whirlwind of discussion around black oppression, white privilege, and the current state of race relations in America. Given a push from Sundance and high-profile celebrities, the message of Get Out has spread like wildfire. It’s different. It’s new. It’s a horror film that finally doesn’t use the tired racial stereotypes seen time and time again in horror films. 

What does the success of a film like this mean? As a major studio release, this is huge. This proves to Hollywood executives (again) that diverse characters with clever storytelling is a recipe for success. There is no longer an excuse for “niche” markets or passing on actors of color for more “bankable” (white) actors. People of color in America collectively have a buying power of $3.5 trillion, and have the power to make or break a film. Do these executives notice that whitewashing a film kills it before its release?

Also in our information-drenched society, audiences are more “woke” than ever.  We know how the industry works, and like to be well informed before we spend our money. POCs, more than anyone else rally together to support our own since we are often under-represented. The success of Get Out and other films such as Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Straight Out of Compton is a que to Hollywood leaders to continue giving audiences something and- someone fresh.

Hollywood has been shaken by modern advancements and changes in its audiences’ thinking, and it should try to keep up or else it will cease to exist. 


ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST

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