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Beyond the screen: why movie theaters in Utah lack color

Box offices are determined by individual ticket sales. Utah’s lack of ticket sales for films with diverse leads is very telling of our culture.

My family made sure I grew up culturally aware, especially when it came to pop culture, and I am thankful for that. I have grown a great appreciation for Hispanic and African American cultures, and specifically, their humor.

It seems almost obvious to me that, in Utah, people aren’t watching films inspired by different ethnicities. I have been to numerous movies with my family that focused on different cultures where the audience attendance was lacking.

Many films with diverse casts have had low box office ratings in Utah despite widespread success. Despite that, stories like these have inspiring messages to be sent to audiences that need to be heard. (Alli Rickards / The Signpost)

One of the recent instances is the Michael B. Jordan film “Just Mercy.”

Hearing such positive reviews, I expected a packed movie theater when I went. However, besides my parents and myself, the only other people in the theater were a family of a four.

“Just Mercy” shares the true story of Harvard student and lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, and how he represented over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.

The movie focuses specifically on one of Stevenson’s first cases, which involved Walter McMillian. He was sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite having solid evidence to help prove his innocence.

He was an African American man in the wrong place at the wrong time. The man who actually murdered the 18-year-old was a Caucasian man who was overlooked for more than two decades.

In the film, McMillian said that during one of the first times he was in court, the prosecutor said he committed the crime because he had the “face of a killer.”

Stories like this need to be told to the general public so they can inspire. People can find something or someone to relate to in every film, and more people should be aware of this.

Another film I noticed was a bust in Utah ticket sales but was advertised widely across America was “Blinded by the Light.” When I watched it with my family, I immediately noticed the lack of attendance. It was shocking.

“Blinded by the Light” tells the story of the life of a Pakistani teenager named Javed who idolized the singer Bruce Springsteen.

Javed had a natural gift for writing in high school, and he confessed to his parents that he was going to America to chase his dream of becoming a writer.

They did not believe in his decision to leave home after high school. Before Javed’s parents started a family, they fled to the U.K. in order to provide a safer life for their future children.

When Javed said he wanted to leave, his father felt as if the U.K. was never good enough. After his words swayed them, Javed’s parents accepted his decision to leave the U.K.

“Blinded by the Light” can inspire people to chase their dreams no matter how impossible they seem, and it can inspire parents to allow their children to venture freely into the world.

Non-traditional films allow viewers to become more aware of struggles that the average American may never think about. They can also allow viewers to realize that we share universal similarities across cultures.

I related to Javed’s love for music and writing. I also appreciated the film touching base on the war between the immigrant Pakistani people and the native U.K. citizens.

Heading to the movies on Thanksgiving Day is a tradition for millions of Americans, which is why I expected my local theater to sell out of tickets for “This Christmas” in 2007.

However, despite the immensely busy lobby, the only people in the theater were my family and two other people.

The film tells the story of an African American family and includes affairs, gun violence, vandalism and depression, as well as pregnancy, love, music and family. With a plethora of topics to relate to, it seems like an ideal movie to watch with friends and family.

This movie was released on a day when most people were free to see it with their families, yet general audiences chose instead to watch movies with Caucasian actors. Aside from that, the cast includes well-known African Americans, including Idris Elba, Regina King and Chris Brown.

Another collection of movies with diminished popularity in Utah is Tyler Perry’s “Madea” film series, which is centered around African Americans. Perhaps it’s because audience members do not appreciate black comedy or because they don’t think it will resonate with them.

For increased appreciation for Madea, it’s helpful to understand why Perry created the character. Perry immersed himself into the role because of his physically and mentally abusive father. Madea was a character that helped him get through those tough times.

Madea was an encouraging figment figure in Perry’s childhood. That message will carry beyond the movie screen.

Films with diverse narratives expand way beyond a character’s race or ethnicity. The basis of these films is a common denominator of human decency.

“Just Mercy” should be a universally loved film in Utah because of the way it can teach audience members to continue moving forward and that justice must be served.

“Blinded by the Light” encouraged audience members to chase after their dreams because their own happiness is more important than others’ opinions.

“This Christmas” reminded audience members that family always comes first, even when there are disagreements and baggage.

The Madea films encouraged parents how to teach their children respect and how to discipline when necessary.

Films like these four need to be better advertised in America and especially in Utah. They have an important story to tell, and people need to hear them. They are just as important, if not more, than the generic Caucasian family people see in most American films today.

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  • M

    Movie GuyFeb 19, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Did the author really just say:
    “The Madea films encouraged parents how to teach their children respect and how to discipline when necessary.”


    That might be more funny that the author’s premise that white Utahns are racist because they don’t watch certain “black” movies.