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“Red Tails” soars at the box office

red-tails-movie-banner“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.”

Members of the North Metro chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council prepare for a sold-out showing of “Red Tails” during its opening weekend.

Members of the North Metro chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council prepare for a sold-out showing of “Red Tails” during its opening weekend.

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 Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

41 comments Add your comment

Gregory

January 23rd, 2012
1:33 pm

History repeats itself. In 1941, top U.S. military leaders doubted that squadrons of African American Fighter Pilots could ever succeed. In 2011 (70 years later), top studio executives doubted that a film about squadrons of African American Fighter Pilots could ever succeed. In both cases, then & now the results were the same – Bam!! “How you like that Mr. Hitler?!!” How you like that 20th Century Fox?!!

Big C

January 23rd, 2012
2:13 pm

Yes, indeed! Great story…Great movie!!!

Elphaba

January 23rd, 2012
2:16 pm

This was an excellent film for all ages and races. A wonderful telling of a profound moment in history that is largely ignored in American public schools. Kudos to the men of the 332nd!

Comment

January 23rd, 2012
2:17 pm

Elijah Kelley (actor in Red Tails who was also in Hairspray) is from LaGrange and hosted a premiere there along with a museum exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen on Friday night. Elijah also wrote and sang the theme song from Red tails.

[...] million on the production budget and another $35 in distribution costs. Congrats to them!!! Click here to read [...]

[...] RED TAILS CLIMBS WEEKEND BOX OFFICE. // (AJC) [...]

Kevin Dahlke

January 23rd, 2012
3:18 pm

The movie was based in most part on the book written by John B. Holway called Black Wings, Red Tails. The book is available on Amazon.com. John B. Holway has written over 20 baseball books, including the Negro Baseball League. During his interviewing the former Negro Baseball players, he recorded stories of the former Tuskegee Airmen and wrote the book. George Lucas read the book and liked it so much, Lucas Arts paid John B. Holway 3 payments to make the movie based on his book. I know this because John B. Holway lives in Springfield, Virginia and is a good friend. The book and John B. Holway are both mentioned in the credits at the end of the film.

Percy Jones

January 23rd, 2012
3:19 pm

A wondefull movie that my wife and my two boys watched on sunday, Jan. 21. It’s a story that needs to be told by all. Being one of the few African Americans of the beach community of Central California, I was pleased to see the mixture in the audience and after the movie ended, everyone applaued.

Deborah

January 23rd, 2012
3:23 pm

My people!!! My people!!! I love to see my fellow african american brothers and sisters come togther!! See what WE can do when we Support and stand by each other!
this is a beautiful thing!! Great movie…don’t let up..we must continue to go see this movie!! Take a friend or two! Thanks Mr. Lucas for not being afraid!!!

Janet W. Thompson

January 23rd, 2012
3:24 pm

Thank you, George Lucas, for loving the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and believing it was worth telling. Kudos to you, the cast, the director and everyone involved with this project.

Iris Jones

January 23rd, 2012
4:50 pm

Thank You George Lucas Very well done loved very second of it.

Iris Jones

January 23rd, 2012
4:52 pm

Thank You George Lucas Very well done loved every second of it

Barbara in GA

January 23rd, 2012
4:58 pm

WOW how powerful we are in numbers! I went to see the movie and I must say it was Excellent! I was in tears of joy walking out of the theater and at the same time telling people “Please see Red Tails the movie”.
It just made you laugh,you cried and you felt the love all that! I was glad to see a mixture of all people at the showing! Everyone stay Positive and keep it moving…. Great job George Lucas and the entire Cast!

Miri

January 23rd, 2012
5:00 pm

I kind of wish they had made this into a television series like ‘Band of Brothers’, rather than a movie. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is one which I think requires more depth and depiction of their trials and tribulations, and I felt that the film didn’t really depict the whole story. For instance, I would have really liked to have seen how the program got started in the first place, and more about how they were trained. Not that the personal touches with the focus on some of the squadron’s member’s wasn’t interesting, it’s just that the film leaves me wanting to know more, since the story depicted in the movie seemed way too short.

Leslie Jacobs

January 23rd, 2012
5:12 pm

My family and I went to see the movie (RED TAILS) this weekend and it left us with such a sense of Pride,Respect and Gratitude to these Brave young Black Men who proved to the world that we as a people , when given the opportunity to.. “show up” you can bet we will ..” show out” and that our intelligence level is not to be questioned. We left there Saturday niight with our Shoulders tucked back a little further and our heads held up a little higher, all because those Brave young Black Men refused to take “no” for an answer. Gratitude, for all the sacrifices that had to be made that we will never see on film or read in any book, but we know, that there were many. Thanks, Mr. Lucas for allowing God to use you in such a meaningful way. KUDOS TO ALL INVOLVED!!!

Jackie

January 23rd, 2012
5:27 pm

To Miri, George Lucas did say in an interview that he had to squeeze everything into a 2 hour Move.
But he have plans to do a Sequel and a Prequel if the Movie goes well. Let’s make that happen People “WE CAN DO IT”

Ms M

January 23rd, 2012
5:32 pm

This film is such a beautiful work of art I cried during and after I left the theater. I am so proud of my young black actors for giving such and amazing performance and powerful voice to the legacy of their history. Bravo!! Bravo!!! Thank you Mr. Lucas.

Gwen Williamson

January 23rd, 2012
5:34 pm

I absolutely loved the way the movie was put together. It was excellent. I have been telling all of my associates about it all day. I really enjoyed it.

Gwen Williamson

January 23rd, 2012
5:35 pm

Enter your comments here

Big Ed

January 23rd, 2012
5:51 pm

I saw Redtails the other day and it was brilliant . The prequel which was an HBO adaptation done in 1995 was more fact based and the acting very a hell of lot better . please support this film .

Curtis Gammage

January 23rd, 2012
6:09 pm

Thanks George Lucas for an awesome film!Thanks for believing in us, when everyone else turned us down!We will never forget you for this! I hope you make 6 times back of what you invested.Thanks so much Mr Lucas! God Bless!

LeNika

January 23rd, 2012
6:37 pm

George Lucas you really out did yourself on this film. Thank you for believing in your work and standing against all adversity. Our story will be remmebered for many years to come. For those that didn’t think an all black cast could get the job done Eat Dirt!!!!! #GeorgeLucasisaHERO

E-K

January 23rd, 2012
9:09 pm

I enjoyed the movie too but I HATED the way Black women were SO absent. Brothers had pictures of they daddy, Black Jesus and a white woman…”the most beautiful woman he ever met,” making all kinds of sacrifices for her but not a mention of a Black mama, daughter, lover or wife left behind! ACK!

‘Red Tails’ Flying High at Box Office

January 23rd, 2012
10:05 pm

[...] Red Tails flying high at box office: The film had a robust debut this weekend, claiming the No. 2 spot by bringing in more than $19 million at the box office. George Lucas said before the film’s release, after noting Hollywood’s reluctance to back a high-budget project with an all-black cast, “If we can get over $20 million in our first weekend, we’re kind of in the game. We’re in The Help category.” Pretty close. The next story to watch will be the impact of this success on similar films. [...]

Jeff Myers

January 23rd, 2012
10:12 pm

The critics gave this movie only 2 1/2 stars (out of 4). They said it was “predictable”. Ok, yes it is predictable as in we won the war, and the Tuskegee Airmen won their war. I just returned from seeing this wonderful film, and it is a great product. However, this true story of these brave aviators did more to further the cause of black Americans than anything put forth by certain personalities that are continually in the news. This movie is 4 stars in my book!!

Frenchie

January 23rd, 2012
10:14 pm

I did like the movie but I could have done without the white girl part,more time could have been spent on how they became airmen in the first place,does every movie need a white girl in it??

Lena

January 24th, 2012
12:33 am

Loved,loved, loved this film! My uncle Lt. Frank E. Roberts class 44A would have been proud! Thank you George Lucas. Our men fought the system to serve and place their life on the line to be American fighter pilots, they were true hero’s.

It’s important for those who may think it fictitious, that our men also met and fell in love with women abroad, as did my uncle who married his wife they were dedicated to eah other former than 5 decades till there death….thank you for the truth!

my name

January 24th, 2012
12:58 am

And the brainwashed house negroes cheer for massa, even though his “black” movie lacked 1/2 of the entire race -Black women! In this movie, they had pictures of their fathers, some weird sort of Black Jesus, and your typical white “woman” (and I use woman loosely) included for no other reason than to be in, but not a single Black woman, who were the biggest supporters of the Airmen. George Lucas just spat in every Black woman’s faces and some of you all are busy cheering his fat poker behind on.

TONY

January 24th, 2012
1:00 am

I think we all as people not only black people but all cultures are sending a message to greater Hollywood that black films do sell really well in the box office as well as DVD and VOD. This will be a big eye opener for Hollywood take notes Hollywood and wise up stop looking at the color of the cast and look at the quality and the storyline of the movie. Now maybe all the major film companies in Hollywood like Lion Gates, Warner brothers,Sony, Universal, Dreamworks will now finally begin to fund black films in stead of trying to hold your feet on our neck to keep us down. No disrespect but black films generate the same green DOLLARS just like the white films do. it’s time to grow up Hollywood this is 2012 not 1960 PEACE AND LOVE

Joe R.

January 24th, 2012
1:44 am

Throughout history, there are stories of people or peoples that have had to fight, sometimes violently, to earn the respect of others and the ability to live their lives the way they feel they deserve.

Slavery and bigotry and persecution is not something to be proud of. But it is also not something we have to accept that it happened in our past, and to some degree occurs today (well not slavery in the USA but still).

if we can get to a point where each of us treats others with respect and resist the urge to judge a person by anything other than his/her actions, we will be a better people.

Until then, we have to keep reminding ourselves that to treat any person differently (for better OR worse) than others just because of their race, gender or religious beliefs is wrong.

N Moses Gardner

January 24th, 2012
3:54 am

Thank you George Lucas for your sacrifice in making this film. It paid off, in many more ways than just money. You did it, despite the odds and against the grain of Hollywood. You have forever earned my respect.

Jammaster

January 24th, 2012
7:02 am

Great movie. I will see it again this weekend. I loved the dog fighting scenes. I read that he had enough footage for a much, much longer movie but had to whittle to down to 2 hours. With the success of this movie, hopefully he will make sequel AND a prequel and include more character development and include the women who supported them.

2012

January 24th, 2012
8:20 am

seriously guys, seriously? how many AA women do you think were in Italy in those days? this movie covered a very limited time period and a very select area of the globe. most of those young men were officers- meaning they were degreed- you could not feel the power of their mothers behind them?? I COULD. everything is not about Black and white!! SMCH. #getalife

Raymond Lester

January 24th, 2012
11:00 am

I am happy for the box office reports. This is awesome. The script needed ALOT of work but it was wonderful to see people of color on the screen. I recently saw the Off-Broadway version Layon Gray’s Black Angels Over Tuskegee in NY, and it gave you a true account of the airmen, their families, the struggles at Tuskegee airbase.Was a well rounded powerful story. Red Tails is an action movie I know, but so was Glory so to speak… I didn’t care about any of Red Tails characters because I didn’t know to much about them. If in NY go see the play, and post your thoughts.

BIG P

January 24th, 2012
11:06 am

commenting on the individual “my name” There were not a lot of AFRICAN American women in Italy during those times. I am pretty sure that is why they were not portrayed in the movie. Also George Lucus girlfriend is African American. I will go see the movie this weekend.

LanceS.

January 24th, 2012
5:37 pm

This is very disturbing to hear that there is still racial profiling. However, in the same token the Movie Executives they are free to spend their money as they please. I being an young African American Male is very proud to have this story told and will support 1000%! Not just because of my race but being AMERICAN!!!

Myrna Jones

January 24th, 2012
10:48 pm

Excellent movie!! Thank you to George Lucas and the entire cast for an awesome job in depicting such an important part of history. It brought out so many emotions in me. It made me laugh and it made me cry. A must see, I definitely reccomend it.

Otha Wayne Nevels

January 25th, 2012
1:04 pm

RED TAILS reminds me of DANCES WITH WOLVES. The critics chewed Costner’s drectoral debut up and spit it out, but now it’s an Academy Award-winning cinematic classic and was the obvious inspiration for Cameron’s AVATAR – that I’ve watched so much I finally noticed the human DNA avatars have 5 fingers while the Na’vi only have 4. . And it seems to me RED TAILS should also be in 3D because the action is unsurpassable. But I got that same feeling critcs have said about the drama that I got with WAR HORSE. I walked from the threatre to forget about Joey like I’ve often forgotten sermons between the church house door and my car. What’s most important to me as an African-American, however, is knowing what The Tuskeegee Airmen did for us all – but were dispised and treated worse than Nazi prisoners of war. I guess I’ll be watching RED TAILS over and over just like I do STAR WARS, DANCES WITH WOLVES and AVATAR. But what do I know? I still love SILVERADO (my #1 Western to #2 DANCES) and have watched it so much I always laugh at how many times Costner’s pinto changes it’s spots. Even while being hotly pursued. What are the critics missing in RED TAILS now that we’re all sure to see with the 20/20 vision if hindsight – and watching it again and again? I sure do wish it was in 3D. That way I could watch it in silence, forget about the “cliches” and dialogue and remember that it’s a visual medium with some very real heroes being portrayed on-screen. And I’m still damned proud of my son first choosing Tuskeegee University out of High School – giving me the opportunity to just once in a while drive by the airfield on which they actually trained. Which is no les a historic sight as the Gettysburg battlefield or the King Center here in The ATL. He didn’t make there like he’s now making it at Howard – but I’ve still already told him that RED TAILS is a “MUST SEE.” And I’m sayig that now to his entire generation. All colors.

Bren

January 25th, 2012
3:14 pm

A great movie everyone young and old should see it. A learning experience for everyone.

Skegee51

January 25th, 2012
4:15 pm

Great story,FINALLY the story told in barber shops,and family reunions get the blessing of been told nation-wide.Even though it was about the Italian base the 332nd was at,it kinda down played a LOT of Racism those same pilots faced while at Tuskegee,Al.Should get that “TOP GUN” rating

Wan

January 27th, 2012
10:16 am

Overall, I thought the movie was great!!. I was very proud to see our handsome black young brothers on the big screen; remembering Tuskeege Airmen in WW11. I would definitely go see it again tosupport it. The only thing I would have liked to see would be a black mama, sister, wife, grandmother or just a black woman in the film