Let’s talk about the only thing that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that’s the group that picks the Oscar nominees and winners, understands: Dollars and cents.
African-Americans spend more, in fact far more, dollars proportionately on Hollywood films than any other segment of the film-going public. Here’s the figures based on a comprehensive BET research study.
They make nearly 200 million trips to the movies yearly. That averages out to more than 13 movie trips for African-Americans versus barely 11 for the general movie-going audience.
They are more likely to make repeat visits to movies that they like. That adds up to more than $500 million in added spending on these movies.
They go to the movies more often each month than the general movie going public. The average is more than two times per month or nearly 30 movie treks a year. And contrary to popular view, and that includes many executives in the film industry, blacks don’t just go see “black themed” films that are top heavy with black stars.
No, they don’t just pack the theaters showing “Straight Outta Compton.” In fact, more than 80 percent of the movies African-Americans go see do not feature a big name black star, cast, or story line.
It’s the same story with Hispanics. The same BET study found that Hispanics also toss in a disproportionate amount of dollars to subsidize Hollywood.
They go to movies more often than the general film -oing public, and are repeat movie goers to films they like. There are even fewer Latino themed films with Latino stars and casts than for blacks.
So here’s the deal. Despite bankrolling, subsidizing if you will, a big part of the film industry, African-Americans and Latinos have to sit through year after year watching the Academy nominate no African-Americans or Latinos for major Oscar awards.
Then they must turn around and watch an Oscar ceremony that’s virtually a white’s only show when the actual awards are handed out. The two years that were the rare exceptions to this, 2001 and 2006, in which blacks did win and were nominated for major awards, now seem like ancient history.
Now let’s go back to the dollars and cents of the industry. Hollywood’s long-running fall back retort to the never ending charge that it will not nominate African-American or Latino performers is, A. they can’t find enough of them, B. They don’t appear in big name, top quality films, C. It’s up to the thousands of voting Academy members to make the decision about who troupes up the stage to bag the grand prize.
The first two are fraudulent, purely self-indulgent and self-serving answers. The times that black stars do appear in what’s deemed quality films they are still snubbed. 2016 is a textbook example of that.
Samuel L. Jackson, Will Smith and Idris Elba are three of the biggest names and most bankable actors in the business and they did appear in big budget, quality films, but still no nomination.
It‘s a circular argument to say more blacks can’t be found. How could it be otherwise, when the industry talks diversity, but then practices apartheid when it comes to opening opportunities for talented minority actors and actresses in the industry?
As for the third cop-out reason for a lily white Oscars, namely it’s up to Academy members to decide, they do but they’re overwhelmingly white, and male. Despite endless promises to get more blacks, Latinos and women in the chummy voting club, the numbers still remain dismally low.
That can be traced to how the Academy voting club was set up to begin with. A prospective member has to be sponsored by two current members of the Academy. Or, they must have been nominated for an Oscar.
There’s more. If they can get over that bar they have to pass muster by the Academy’s Board of Governors who have the final say over who gets in. There’s been absolutely no sign that the Academy will do any kind of overhaul of its stuck in stone procedure for getting more minorities and women into the circle.
The Academy was roundly denounced in 2015 for staging a virtually lily white Oscars winner show. It made promise after promise to mend its ways and make diversity more than just a dictionary word for its 2016 awards. It’s now 2016.
And those who will hear their names nominated for an award and the ones who will march up to the podium to receive their awards this year will look exactly like those who marched up their a year ago. That being the case it’s past time to tune out the white Oscars. And my guess is many will.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is “Trump and the GOP: Race Baiting to the White House” (Amazon Kindle) He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.