February 21, 2013

By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil

It’s Award Season! And so far what a season it’s been. Kelly Rowland was stunning in her gown during the 55th Grammy Awards, which LL Cool J hosted, while more than 28 million viewers tuned in. But surprisingly that’s not as many as the 40 million who watched the previous year. How can that be with LL Cool J and all? Well, remember, last year’s Grammys followed the death of the late great Whitney Houston, and millions tuned in just to watch the tribute to her.

The 44th Annual NAACP Image Awards delivered its biggest overall audience in four years, since 2009, and matched its highest adult 18-49 rating since that same year. Three million tuned in to this year’s show versus 2.9 million last year – a three percent increase in total viewers.

Nielsen insights show that African-Americans are more inclined to watch TV shows and movies that include characters portrayed by people who look like us. So are you ready for this year’s Academy Awards? 

With nominees like the adorable, uber-talented nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (Best Actress in a Leading Role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and the always amazing (and handsome too), Denzel Washington (Best Actor in a Leading Role in “Flight”), Hollywood’s biggest night could again draw a record Black viewing audience (I may just host a Denzel viewing party myself)! Additionally, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Django Unchained” are nominated for best picture. Both have African-American stars in leading roles. “Django” features Jaime Foxx, the lovely Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Last year’s broadcast of the Academy Awards was the second-highest rated awards show among African-Americans with about three million Black viewers, according to Nielsen’s African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing 2012 Report. It was a big year for Black Hollywood as well. The fabulous Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were both nominated for “The Help,” and Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the movie. Remember the 2010 Academy Awards? African-American viewership for that year was up a whopping 43% over the previous year. We represented 11% of the 26.8 million Americans who tuned in. Again, we had major representation that year.  The highly acclaimed movie “Precious,” had multiple nominations including Best Supporting Actress won by comedienne Mo’Nique, and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress. Also, the venerable Morgan Freeman won Best Actor for his role in “Invictus.”

Turning to the movies themselves, according to Nielsen National Research Group’s 2012 American Movie-Going Report, 70% of Americans ages 12 - 74 reported seeing one or more movies at a theater in the last year.  The survey, conducted among a representative group of  more than 3,000 Americans across  age, gender and race, shows that overall attendance for new release movies was pretty much the same as a year ago – an average of 6.8 movies per person compared with 6.9 in 2011. African-Americans comprise 11% of the movie-going population, led by the Baby Boomers in our group.  And, according to the African-American Consumer Report, these were our top 10 movies for the first half of 2012 and the gross box office earnings:

1.  Think Like A Man $91,547,205

2.  Madea’s Witness Protection          $55,611,721

3.  Red Tails    $49,875,589

4.  Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds $35,010,192

5.  Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day           $1,201,562

6.  Beasts of the Southern Wild          $1,692,675

7.  Pariah         $758,099

8.  A Beautiful Soul    $54,008

9.  Restless City          $8,106

10. Elevate      $3,547

Hispanics are the heaviest movie-goers, representing 18% of the movie-going population and accounting for 25% of all movies seen. The American Movie-Going report shows that although there were slightly more female movie-goers, 51%, than male movie-goers, 49%, men nonetheless accounted for 55% of theatrical attendance.

While it’s always fun to root for our favorites during awards season and see how our movie-going trends vary – or not – from year-to-year, this is big business. Hollywood speaks fluent “green,” as in moolah, or cash. Our behavior is watched very closely by the entertainment industry and advertisers who tailor their products, their decisions and the way they reach you according to how you choose to wield your economic clout at the box office with your pocketbook or with your remote at home. So, if you enjoy seeing quality movies that are inclusive of Blacks, show up in large numbers when those movies come out. That’s truly the only way for everyone to have a happy ending!

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.

Category: Opinion

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