Movies: Box office numbers drive more inclusive Hollywood

Brad Keefe
"Black Panther"

This week's major theatrical releases are led by “Tomb Raider,” a reboot that's decidedly more about showcasing its heroine's strength, and the high school coming-out story “Love, Simon.”

Last weekend's box office was topped by two movies with $100 million budgets that were helmed by African-American directors: Ryan Coogler's “Black Panther” and Ava DuVernay's “A Wrinkle in Time.”

The need for Hollywood to be more inclusive — in both the stories it tells and who is charged with telling them — is hardly a new development, but we're seeing changes that are worth noting here.

If there's one thing Hollywood listens to, it's money, and these successes just point to a need for representation that was there the whole time.

Coogler's “Black Panther” has already made over $1 billion worldwide and is the kind of cultural phenomenon we haven't seen from a superhero movie, well, maybe ever. In news that should surprise no one, a sequel was confirmed this week.

It draws certain parallels to Patti Jenkins' “Wonder Woman,” which also had the box office success to guarantee a sequel, bolstered largely by a strong depiction of women that resonated with female audiences.

While it remains to be seen if the Alicia Vikander-led “Tomb Raider” will be a bona fide feminist film, it's easy to see a lot more “Wonder Woman” in the trailers than the more-sexualized Angelina Jolie “Tomb Raider” movies of the early 2000s.

That formula makes sense, as “Wonder Woman” joined “The Last Jedi” and “Beauty & the Beast” as the top three highest grossing movies of 2017, marking the first time in nearly 60 years that the top films of the year all had female leads.

We can also point to the surprise box office success of last year's breakout, Jordan Peele's “Get Out” (although that point would have been better punctuated with a Best Picture win, huh?). Or the cultural importance and wide success of Pixar's “Coco.”

So who would have thought that not all movies had to be about straight white men, huh?

The point here is not to pat Hollywood studios on the back for finally doing the right thing, because these studios aren't necessarily doing it for the right reason.

The point is that you cast a vote with your ticket dollars. So if you want more stories about and by people of color, women and the LGBTQ community, make sure you go to these movies. In a theater. Because that speaks Hollywood's language.