'Get Out': Jordan Peele's Film on Race Relations Exceeds $100M at Box Office

The satirical horror film "embodies and expresses the African American experience with infrastructural racism," NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said.

Director Jordan Peele / REUTERS

Jordan Peele, who is best known for his work on the TV series "Key & Peele," has become the first Black director and writer to earn $100 million in ticket sales for a debut film.

According to studio estimates on Sunday, Peele's satirical horror film, "Get Out," made with a budget of $4 million, earned $21.1 million in its third weekend, bringing its total to $111 million. It made $30 million when it debuted on February 24.

The film has diverse audiences, attracting 39 percent Black, 36 percent white and 17 percent Latino moviegoers on opening weekend, according to the Associated Press.

The success of "Get Out," which has a diverse cast, brings to light the findings of UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies annual Hollywood Diversity Report, published last month. The report examined the 200 top-grossing theatrical film releases in 2015. Researchers found that relatively diverse films excelled at the box office between 2011 and 2015, regardless of genre.

Other findings include:

  • People of color bought 45 percent of all movie tickets sold in the United States in 2015.
  • Latinos accounted for 23 percent of ticket purchases alone.
  • Films with relatively diverse casts enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment.

The Message of 'Get Out'

Peele's film centers on a Black man who discovers that his white girlfriend's liberal, all-white hometown is guarding a sinister secret. "Get Out," which uses a combination of comedy and horror, focuses on the state of race relations in the U.S.

"As we got into the initial years of the Obama administration, it became more clear than ever to me that race was a conversation people were increasingly uncomfortable having," Peele said in an interview with The Verge.

"There was this 'post-racial' lie going on. So this movie, the purpose of it became to represent the Black experience, but also just [represent] race in the horror-movie genre and in the public conversation, in a way that I felt was taboo."

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter published on Monday titled "Why 'Get Out' Is 'Invasion of the Black Body Snatchers' for the Trump Era."

Abdul-Jabbar said the film "embodies and expresses the African American experience with infrastructural racism in a way that Blacks hope whites will better understand after seeing it."

"Most important is the idea that when you live under constant physical threat of violence — whether from police, the legal system or racist groups — that in itself is a way to control people," he said.

Abdul-Jabbar goes on to discuss the irony the film communicates: wealthy white liberals can also be prone to racism.

"What startles some viewers of 'Get Out' is that the biggest threat to the young Black protagonist isn't the predictable redneck leftovers from 'Deliverance,' but the wealthy white liberals who probably donate to the ACLU and tearfully tell their friends to watch 'Moonlight.'

"The charming Armitage family of the movie may seem liberal, but they could just as easily be Trump surrogates, a family of chipper Kellyanne Conways, whitesplaining away racism."

At the Democratic National Convention in July Abdul-Jabbar gave a short speech, which criticized then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's call for a Muslim ban in the U.S.

Should Only African American Actors Star in Films About Racism in the U.S.?

Though there has been great critical acclaim for "Get Out," actor Samuel L. Jackson has criticized the casting of British Black actors in U.S. films that deal with race relations. The star of the film, Daniel Kaluuya, is British.

Samuel said he is criticizing the Hollywood system in general, rather than the actors themselves.

"It was not a slam against them, but it was just a comment about how Hollywood works in an interesting sort of way sometimes," Jackson told the AP.

Actor Daniel Kaluuya

Kaluuya responded to Jackson's comments.

"Big up Samuel L. Jackson, because here's a guy who has broken down doors," he said in an interview with GQ published Monday. "He has done a lot so that we can do what we can do.

"Here's the thing about that critique, though. I'm dark-skinned, bro. When I'm around Black people I'm made to feel 'other' because I'm dark-skinned.

"I've had to wrestle with that, with people going 'You're too Black.' Then I come to America and they say, 'You're not Black enough.' I go to Uganda, I can't speak the language. In India, I'm Black. In the Black community, I'm dark-skinned. In America, I'm British."

Kaluuya said that Blacks in the UK have also dealt with racism and segregation.

"I really respect African American people," he said. "I just want to tell Black stories.

"This is the frustrating thing, bro — in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I've experienced as a Black person. I have to show off my struggle so that people accept that I'm Black.

"No matter that every single room I go to I'm usually the darkest person there. You know what I'm saying? I kind of resent that mentality. I'm just an individual."


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UPDATE: May 26, 2018

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