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Hyacinth B. Carbon, Genevieve Michel-Bryan, Nicole Marie Richardson, Tennille M. Robinson & Stacia J. Tackie
There’s an old query: would you rather have fortune or fame? Well, in the business of entertainment, the answer is both. Those who call the shots or get a project green-lighted are often those who generate blockbuster box office receipts and record-breaking television ad revenues.
African Americans have long played a vital role in the content side of entertainment. Their talents have produced big bucks in film and television for as long as these outlets have existed. Talents such as Sidney Poitier in the 1960s, Richard Pryor in the 1970s, and Eddie Murphy (who remains a top box office draw) in the 1980s are just a few of the black entertainers who have collectively generated millions for themselves and billions for the studios.
These days, a core group of black superstars are not only carrying the torch but taking it to new heights. Among them, Will Smith, the reigning box office king, has emerged as one of the industry’s biggest international stars. Case in point, more than half of I am Legend’s $511 million box office total was generated overseas. Then there’s Oprah Winfrey, a media powerhouse who is a role model and source of inspiration worldwide. Throughout the list you’ll find Emmy and Oscar winners, on-screen talent, and behind-the-scenes creators. All told, they represent a large portion of the economic impact of African Americans in the entertainment industry.
The film and television industries have been enjoying solid growth. According to Box Office Mojo, an online movie publication and box office reporting service, film revenues jumped almost 5% in 2007 to a record $9.6 billion. “The fact that in ’07 we had record-breaking revenues says that the movie industry is at the
very least holding its own, especially impressive in the face of all these emerging technologies and options for entertainment that are vying for the attention of the audience, such as the Internet, home video, downloads, and video gaming,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers L.L.C., a research firm that analyzes the film industry. “There are all these options-more than ever before-for their entertainment dollar. It’s not like the ’30s and ’40s, when you basically had radio and movies.”
On the television side, $46.9 billion was generated in advertising revenues in 2006 (the most current stats available at press time), an increase of 5.3% over the prior year, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising (from estimates supplied by TNS Media Intelligence).
BLACK ENTERPRISE thought the time was right to take a look at the talent generating the gargantuan box office returns on the big screen and driving huge advertising revenues on television. But we didn’t stop there. We developed the BE Bankability Index, which was calculated by factoring in box office revenues, television ads, estimated salaries, name recognition, and major award wins and nominations.
In gathering data to develop this index, our editors computed figures with the assistance of BE Research. We also consulted industry analysts, entertainment agents,