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Forest Whitaker to people of color: Our most profound stories remain untold

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In an essay for Variety Magazine, actor Forest Whitaker wrote about the opportunities available in showbiz for people of colour today.

By Justina Terhember

Forest Whitaker is an actor, producer, and director. He’s also the co-founder of Significant Productions along with Nina Yang Bongiovi. In 2007, he became the fourth African-American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, following in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. He wrote an essay for Variety magazine, in which he acknowledged being fortunate for the opportunities that have come his way as an artist during his 40 years in Hollywood.

“On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught.”

Whitaker wrote: “On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught. As a result, some of our most instructive, profound, and emotional stories remain untold, which means that audiences’ perspectives on our collective existence remain tragically limited. This was the endemic reality that my producing partner Nina Yang Bongiovi and I sought to extinguish when we formed our company, Significant Productions, over a decade ago. Our mission statement is simple: Provide opportunity.”

Whitaker wrote further that when he and Bongiovi teamed up with first-time filmmaker Rebecca Hall on a long-overdue adaptation of Nella Larsen’s landmark 1929 novel ‘Passing’, they saw nothing but opportunity: “For world-class actresses like Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga to craft complex, multidimensional roles too rarely afforded to performers of color; for an accomplished actress to bring a deeply personal story, 13 years in the making, to the screen; and for a Black female author’s essential storytelling to reach the kind of vast audience that would have been thought impossible 100 years ago.”

Whitaker also added that when they backed Ryan Coogler’s deeply personal directorial debut ‘Fruitvale Station’, it wasn’t an obvious calculation for many. “To take a risk on an unproven talent fresh out of film school with such a specific story to tell was anathema, but to us, it was clear that this is how we build the future. Nina and I felt that we needed Ryan’s voice in the world, a voice with the power and potential to shift the culture in Hollywood. His impact since speaks for itself, through the scope and global impact of films like ‘Creed’ and ‘Black Panther’ — films that have taken their own mighty swings at breaking through the plaque.”

Whitaker also wrote: “As hard-fought and at times harrowing I’ve found it to be for these kinds of stories to gain purpose out in the world, I’m as optimistic as I have ever been that they will continue to be told. The will is there. The talent is there. It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the opportunity is there.”

Read the full essay HERE.

MOVIES

Scrapped ‘Batgirl’ directors to helm Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in ‘Bad Boys 4’

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Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are poised to return to direct the next film in the ‘Bad Boys’ franchise. Sony Pictures confirmed that the as-of-yet untitled sequel is in early pre-production with the ‘Ms. Marvel’ showrunners returning to direct from a script by Chris Bremner. The filmmakers, who also helmed Warner Bros.’ scrapped ‘Batgirl’ movie, directed 2020’s ‘Bad Boys for Life’, which reunited Smith and Lawrence as detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, 25 years after the first ‘Bad Boys’ film was released.

Shortly after the threequel hit theaters, Sony announced that a fourth ‘Bad Boys’ film was in development, and ‘Bad Boys for Life’ went on to earn $426.5 million at the worldwide box office as one of the last pre-pandemic era blockbusters.

Smith and Lawrence announced that the upcoming movie was officially charging ahead by releasing a reunion video on social media with the caption, “IT’S ABOUT THAT TIME!”

The video follows Smith as he drives to Lawrence’s home (camera in tow), saying, “Yo, I’ve got an announcement. Y’all better stop scrolling.” As a little hint, Smith plays the opening bars of “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” Nelly, P. Diddy and Murphy Lee’s song from the 2003 ‘Bad Boys II’ soundtrack. “I wish I was you, not knowing what I’m about to show me.”

Arriving at Lawrence’s door, the duo declare that the fourth film is officially on the way. “It’s about that time!” Lawrence yells. “Bad boys for life baby,” Smith chimes in, calling out the duo’s catchphrase and reinforcing the “For life,” as they comically acknowledge that the third film’s title effectively wasted the pun they could’ve used for the upcoming fourth movie. “We shouldn’t have called it that though,” Smith quips.

In July, Lawrence gave an update on the project in an interview for the cover of Ebony magazine, confirming that the movie was still in development after Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, which had caused some to speculate about its fate.

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How ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ passed $2 billion globally

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After six weeks of release, James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has surpassed $2 billion in global ticket sales. It’s the sixth film in history — and first in pandemic times — to cross the coveted milestone, joining an exclusive club that includes ‘Avatar’, ‘Avengers: Endgame’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

The long-delayed sequel opened in December and remained hugely popular in the weeks since its release. Helping it to soar like the original, the release was boosted by Imax and 3D screens, as well as repeat customers across all ages and demographics, propelling ticket sales to dizzying heights. It is expected to continue, even if slowly, garnering brisk box office.

Disney, which holds the rights to ‘Avatar’ after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, spent roughly $460 million to produce and promote ‘The Way of Water’, making it one of the most expensive films ever.

Cameron is responsible for three of the six highest-grossing movies of all time. He’s also the only director with three films to cross $2 billion. Notably, Zoe Saldaña, who plays Neytiri in the ‘Avatar’ series, has now starred in four of the six films to cross $2 billion. She also appears in both ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, reprising her ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ role of Gamora.

‘The Way of Water’ has officially hit the lofty goal that Cameron set for himself prior to the film’s release. Before the sequel opened in theaters, he told GQ that ‘Avatar 2’ represents “the worst business case in movie history” because it needs to become one of the three or four top-grossing movies of all time to break even. (Analysts believe the film’s breakeven point was close to $1.5 billion, so ‘The Way of Water’ has already been in the black.) But in the coming days, it’ll take down the fourth- and fifth-biggest movies, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ($2.07 billion) and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ($2.04 billion), to achieve that feat.

The original ‘Avatar’, which debuted in theatres 13 years ago, remains the biggest movie of all time, with $2.9 billion.

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‘Avatar 2’ hits $1.4 billion after $86 million new year haul

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James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ loomed large at the box office during the New Year’s holiday, generating a towering $86.3 million over the four-day weekend. Through New Year’s Day, the blockbuster sequel has grossed $444.4 million in North America and roughly $1.4 billion globally. It has been holding strong in the time since its release, dropping only 8% in its third weekend in theaters. Over the traditional three-day period, the movie brought in $66.8 million, which marks a 4% increase from its sophomore outing.

With its worldwide ticket sales, ‘Avatar 2’ stands as the 14th-highest global release in history, just ahead of ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’. After only three weeks, it’s already primed to pass Paramount and Tom Cruise’s box office smash ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ ($1.488 billion) as the highest-grossing movie released in 2022.

‘Avatar 2’ is expected to remain a top draw throughout the month of January, which will be necessary to justify its massive price tag. Cameron estimated the $350 million-budgeted movie (not including at least $100 million in marketing fees) needs to generate roughly $2 billion to break even, though analysts believe the threshold to profitability is probably closer to $1.5 billion. As a plus, it looks to hit that benchmark in a matter of days.

The original ‘Avatar’ was released in 2009 and stands as the highest-grossing release in history with $2.97 billion worldwide. The follow-up film, which debuted 13 years later after many, many delays, will struggle to make that much money because the global box office hasn’t fully rebounded from the pandemic. Moreover, China, a major theatrical market, is experiencing a resurgence of COVID and Russia, another big territory, won’t have access to the film.

The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver, in the sequel which follows the Sully family as they head underwater to battle the elements and keep the Na’vi safe from humans.

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