*For more than a century, Hollywood studios perpetuated a myth that movies with all-black casts wouldn’t perform well financially.
“We were literally told that having even two black people on screen wouldn’t sell,” confirms Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group, a black-owned, publicly traded film distribution company. “With its all-black cast, ‘Black Panther’ blew away every single myth about black Hollywood.” Sylvan predicts that filmmakers and investors will continue to see huge profits from black films.
He points out that minorities make up the largest percentage of movie attendees.
“For years, I’ve said that if African Americans were not only in front of the camera but behind the camera making stories about people who look like us, the market would be receptive,” says Sylvan. “Black Panther has set the stage to blow the marketability of black films through the roof.”
In addition to Black Panther, which made $192 million domestically and $169 million internationally upon its release, Sylvan says Academy Award Best Picture Moonlight and Academy Award-winning Get Out are among the films changing Hollywood’s acceptance of black films.
“Girls Trip, with its all-female black cast, broke box office records. Hidden Figures showed the contribution of black ingenuity and perseverance in American history.”
Blacks comprise about 24 percent of the U.S. population, and their buying power is estimated to be in the trillions.
“The number-one thing African Americans spend their money on is entertainment,” says Sylvan. “There are also three times more African Americans using social media than any other ethnic group. So, when they embrace a film, they have the power to make it a box office hit. That’s good news for investors looking to grow their money.”
Why black films are so lucrative
Sylvan says that black films are better investment options than non-black films.
“Dollar for dollar, films about African American teens, made by African American filmmakers, outperform movies about their white counterparts.”
To understand why, he explains that you need to know the understory.
“The black population in America has so few opportunities to see themselves on the big screen that whenever a movie comes out where the lead actors look like them, they support the movie in droves. Then, the movies cross over into other audiences which continues their box office appeal.”
Black films also outperform other films financially because most of them are made with small budgets.
“There are no explosions. There’s no CGI. These are primarily movies driven by dialog and character interaction, which aren’t expensive to make.”
Sycamore Entertainment occupies a unique position because it distributes and markets films from an ethnic perspective.
“There are not a lot of companies finding these untold stories and bringing them to the market in a profitable way,” explains Sylvan, whose latest project is a film called Scouts, about all-black Boy Scout troop 242.
These movies are causing Hollywood to question the status quo
Audiences are drawn to today’s current line-up of black films because of their positive messaging. “For years, the studios ignored the cries of the black Hollywood community. They have a long history of portraying blacks only as criminals. That’s not who we are as a people. Now, we’re seeing more positive films about us and our accomplishments. Moonlight is about father/son bonding. Scouts will have a positive message. Audiences are seeing: This story is just like my story regardless of skin color. No race has a moratorium on family love.”
Still, Sylvan is consistently asked these questions about the black film industry:
- Will black films’ themes translate to non-black audiences? “Yes! A universal story is a universal story.”
- Will the industry now back big-budget movies with all-black casts? “Clearly, this is where we need to go, where we are going and where some of the greatest returns on investment will be.”
- Can black movies win awards? “Moonlight, a movie about a father’s love for his child, won Best Picture. Get Out won the Academy Award this year for best original screen play.”
- Can you show black romance on screen? “Yes! We are all people.”
He adds, “There are tons of high-quality movies that now have the opportunity to be shown on the big screen and pull in high dollars.”
“We told you so!”
Sylvan laments that the studies have said for years that you can’t make a movie with a black lead because no one will buy it.
“We have fought back against this idea. Now the studios have had this epiphany that black movies matter. What can I say, except we told you so!”
The power of films to support social change is also important to Sylvan.
“These films can create a healing among races. By focusing on stories of inclusion and equality, we are creating a level of acceptance we’ve never seen before.”
Sylvan predicts that in the future, we’ll see more movies that have diversified casts which will translate into strong monetary success.
“The Fast and the Furious cast, for example, includes every race and sexual orientation. That’s the real world we’re living in today. We’ll see more inclusion … more stories about other cultures and races so that everyone can take something from the movie. We’ll see the pendulum swing closer to the middle, where it needs to be.”
To learn more about Sycamore Entertainment Group, visit www.sycamoreentertainment.com.
Biography: Edward Sylvan
Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment is a 30-year veteran of the financial markets working as both a retail stockbroker and trader for Scotia Mcleod and Marathon Securities. Ed has also served as management to several startup technology and mining companies providing his expertise in corporate structure, strategic partnerships, acquisitions and finance as well as assisting in becoming publicly traded companies. Ed demonstrates great leadership in being on the forefront of new innovations in the investment industry and applying them to the current business environments. Over the last 10 years, Ed has used his financial network to develop strong relationships within the film industry with a focus on marketing and distribution of independent films. He is currently applying the latest developments in Blockchain technology to the film distribution business.
Media Relations, Inc.
The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.
The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.
“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”
Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”
The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.
“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”
Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”
In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.
“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”
Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.
“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”
Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”
New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’
*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.
“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).
It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.
EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.
Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars. As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.
This year has been a year like no other. “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead. Radio Programmers click here for adds.
“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA. Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita. The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture. “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms. Click here to listen on Spotify.
Celebrate Halloween with ‘Spell’ Starring Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine and John Beasley / WATCH
*Today/TONIGHT is Halloween and what could be a more perfect way to celebrate than with the release of SPELL? Enjoy the clips below to get you in the spooky spirit!
Omari Hardwick (“Power,” Sorry to Bother You), Loretta Devine (“Black-ish,” Crash) and John Beasley (The Sum of All Fears, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) star in the terrifying thriller SPELL, coming to Premium Video-On-Demand and Digital today October 30 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Omari Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.
DIRECTED BY | Mark Tonderai
SCREENPLAY BY | Kurt Wimmer
STARRING | Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, John Beasley
AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS | Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, DirecTV, VUDU, Xfinity, FandangoNOW and more.
Rating | R – violence, disturbing/bloody images, and language
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