Black-Orientated Company Enters US Movie Market
A production company focused on telling true-to-life stories about black America has released its first commercial film over the weekend. Preaching to the Choir opened in 150 theatres in the United States and marks the first release from the independent production company Codeblack Entertainment.
The movie tells the story of a successful rap singer who goes home, rediscovers his roots and finds romance.
"The studios are stuck in the mode of comedy or gangsta'," said Jeff Clanagan, who formed the company in 2005. "There are other types of stories, and my objective is to find those movies and give those independent filmmakers an outlet and a voice."
Clanagan wants to focus on low-budget, independent movies that reflect what he calls the true lives of African-Americans.
He started in show business as a promoter of hip-hop concerts for acts such as Ice Cube and LL Cool J. He moved onto film and TV production, becoming head of a video and DVD distributor.
Clanagan and other black professionals in the business say Hollywood only uses black characters in comedies and crime thrillers and believes those are the only types of films that will draw African-American audiences.
"The embrace of these heavy urban scenarios and of them being the only viewpoint of black life, I find very disturbing," said Gil Robertson, head of the African American Film Critics Association.
Clanagan sees an underserved market. He cited the profits of $50 million US made by Diary of a Mad Black Woman and $63 million made by Madea's Family Reunion as examples of black movies that have attracted large audiences, mostly from the black community.
Clanagan said he hopes his ties to the community will help sell tickets. He has reached a market deal with Radio One, an urban music network that reaches 13 million people in 22 U.S. cities.
"We employ people in the community and we have a certain type of access. We can reach our audience more effectively than studios can."