Jackie Robinson Broke Down Barriers…Will His Biopic “42” Do The Same For Black Actors?

The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 will reportedly rake in $27.3 million, good for No. 1 for weekend box office takes. It's also, according to Forbes, the biggest baseball-themed opening weekend even when adjusted for inflation (in 2013 dollars, A League of Their Own has a debut of $26.6 million). Forecasts have the film likely topping $100 million, eventually. But Forbes' Scott Mendleson offers some interesting insight — albeit predictable and sobering — on the impact (or lack thereof) that the film will have on Hollywood's willingness to make mainstream films with black leads. 

It’s also going to have a very healthy post-theatrical life, becoming a convenient choice for school viewing and a lifetime of play on TNT. Alas, because stars Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie are African American, their stock won’t rise much despite the film’s success as there are all-too few high profile roles in mainstream studio pictures for black actors not named Will Smith or Denzel Washington. Idris Elba seems to have found a niche in sci-fi ensembles and Anthony Mackie has become the go-to token black guy, but there’s a reason so many actors of color (especially actresses, natch) end up working for Tyler Perry. But director Brian Helgeland will possibly see his name attached to more projects as a result, although probably not the theoretical Black Panther that Marvel keeps finding reasons not to make. I don’t mean to be grouchy about this, but there is no small irony in a film about a black man breaking through baseball’s color barrier where the black actors involved will all struggle to find quality work because there is such an obvious glass ceiling for non-white and especially non-whites of the female variety. What this film’s success *should* again prove is that there is a real and vibrant audience for mainstream films involving African Americans aside from just the Tyler Perry franchise. Maybe this time the studios will take notice?

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