“Red Tails,” the George Lucas film that tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, enjoyed a robust debut weekend, claiming the #2 spot by bringing in more than $19 million at the box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter and other industry reports.
The strong showing follows a push in numerous markets, including Atlanta, where Tuskegee Airmen attended an advance screening to reminisce and urge support for the film. President and Mrs. Obama hosted a group of Tuskegee Airmen at a private screening in the White House theater.
In metro Atlanta, a crowd of supporters including many proud veterans attended an advance screening at the AMC Southlake 24 in Morrow.
“This is an awesome film. Please tell at least four people,” chapter president Zellie Orr urged the packed theater just before the movie began. During the pre-screening reception, Orr, a researcher and historian, said she became active with the chapter in 2004. She contacted the Lucas film folks more than two years ago to secure Thursday night’s premiere in Atlanta.
“These men who made history get to see it on the big screen,” she said. Tuskegee Airmen came from practically every state in the U.S. They contributed to our freedom at home and abroad. They’re getting the recognition they deserve.”
At least one screening in metro Atlanta was sold out, when 75 members of the North Metro chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, representing the local alumni chapters of eight African American fraternities and sororities, attended the 5 p.m. Saturday showing at AMC Discover Mills.
“We all have different stories,” said Leonard Staten, president of the North Metro National Pan-Hellenic Council. “But, tonight we made a singular statement: We will support the accurate, respectful telling of American history and the contributions that African Americans made to it.”
Lucas has talked quite a bit about Hollywood’s reluctance to back a project starring an all-black cast. In a Sunday New York Times magazine piece he said that not only could he not interested backers in financing the project, but one studio’s executives even skipped a screening.
Undeterred, Lucas financed the movie himself and struck a hopeful note.
“If we can get over $20 million in our first weekend,” Lucas said, “we’re kind of in the game. We’re in ‘The Help’ category.”
The movie has spurred a healthy word-of-mouth campaign on the Twitter accounts of numerous celebrities.
“Go see Red Tails,” tweeted actor Tyrese Gibson. “It’s already at $20 million in 2 days..! They said movies w/ an all black cast don’t do well.”
“Just saw Red Tails,” actor LeVar Burton tweeted. “Tonight my inner child will dream of heroes who look like me. Thank you, George Lucas!”
“It’s important that we all go support Red Tails the movie and go see it this weekend!!!” tweeted Sean “Diddy” Combs.
And Atlanta R&B artist Ne-Yo, who plays one of the fighters, rallied his followers to come see him on the big screen.
“Salutations twitfam!” he tweeted. “Who saw Red Tails opening day? What did you think? Tell a friend to tell a friend to go see it today! ‘We Fight!”
- Jennifer Brett/The Buzzfirstname.lastname@example.org