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, and BE 100S advertising agencies as well as industry sources such as TNS Media Intelligence, Baseline Studio Systems, Variety.com, and The Hollywood Reporter.
In determining the Top 25 Moneymakers in Hollywood, BLACK ENTERPRISE combined domestic and international office totals, along with DVD sales for each in 2006 and 2007. For television personalities, we substituted advertising revenues for box office receipts. That sum was then divided by I million to bring the number down to a reasonable scale. This figure represents 40% of the total weighting of the index. The person's estimated earnings (30% of the index) was also divided by I million and added to the mix. Then we factored in name recognition by coming up with a Q score (15% of the index) for each of the entrants. This was a scale of 10 to 50 and decided by BE editors. The awards category (15% of the index) was generated by evaluating the number of Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe award wins and nominations throughout the career of each person The sum of these became each entrant's total score. The index is the comparison of an individual's total score to the average score of the 25 entrants.
Other criteria included:
* For an actor to receive box office credit for a film, he or she must have been in a leading role.
* Films in which the actor or actress was part of an ensemble or played a minor role were excluded.
* Voice-over work for animated films was excluded
Revenues 40% Earnings 30% Q-Rating 15% Awards 15% Note: Table made from pie chart. Hollywood's Top 25 Moneymakers
>> Byron Allen
Byron Allen remains a steady player in the entertainment industry. As chairman and CEO of Beverly Hills, California-based Entertainment Studios Inc., he independently produces and distributes 15 first-run syndicated shows including Entertainers with Byron Allen, Comics Unleashed, and The American Athlete. He also offers a number of programs through his Website, www.es.tv. Although many of his TV programs air during the wee hours, Allen's most popular shows have generated an estimated $66 million in advertising revenues.
25 Index Score| 13.7
24 Index Score| 19.7
>> O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson
Ice Cube, the 38-year-old godfather of gangsta rap, is one of Hollywood's sure bets. Through his production company, Cube Vision, the actor-producer has developed a series of blockbuster franchises, including the Friday and Barbershop series, that have a collective box office gross of more than $260 million. His new hit franchise, the family-friendly Are We There Yet? and its sequel Are We Done Yet? rang up more than $153 million in worldwide ticket sales. His most recent film, First Sunday, proves that the former rapper can still strike box office gold: It grossed nearly $18 million its opening weekend to earn the No. 2 spot. As press time, the comedy has produced more than $30 million domestically.
>> Forest Whitaker
Forest Whitaker has royal talent. His role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland earned him numerous awards, including a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best actor in 2007, making him one of four black men to capture the prize in the Academy's 80-year history. The film, produced on a shoestring budget of $6 million, generated $48 million worldwide. Although most of his films are not blockbusters, the prolific Whittaker is often selected, even invited, to work on top-caliber projects across genres and mediums.