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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

UPDATE: 

I’ve added the update for this story at the end.

ORIGINAL COLUMN:

Today something significant will be happening. Today, people can prove me wrong about something I’ve been saying for years. 

But I don’t think they will.

See, today, Hands Of Stone will go wide. It’ll jump from 810 theaters to around 2,000, with the hope of a big Labor Day Weekend payoff in a few days. 

It centers on the legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, has a stellar cast, and comes from a time in history that’s so recent that the film’s central figure is still alive today. For advocates of diversity, you have the talented Edgar Ramirez starring as Duran, you have pop music megastar Usher Raymond as the iconic pugilist “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and a supporting cast littered with hispanic performers like Rubén Blades, Ana de Armas, and Yancey Arias. 

The production is rounded out by the “Raging Bull” himself Robert De Niro, and ubiquitous African-American character actor Reg E. Cathey as the infamous boxing promoter Don King.

So you’ve got many of the ingredients that activists are clamoring for:

  • A diverse cast
  • Latino lead characters that aren’t playing negative stereotypes like cholos or dealers
  • A story with broad appeal that doesn’t appear to be pandering for “the Latino vote”

And yet, similar to other recent films like Cesar Chavez and The 33– both of which were also historical dramas that you’d think would resonate with Latino audiences- I expect the film to fizzle.

It’s been my stance, for years, that Latinos aren’t like other filmgoing demographics. They won’t flock to see a film just because it’s “about” them, or “for” them. They’re a significant portion of the moviegoing public in these here United States of America, yet they tend to show up in droves for the latest blockbuster entertainment- most of which doesn’t “represent” them- and then go cold when there’s a film that Hollywood thinks is right in their wheelhouse. 

Now, I know what you’re saying: “But Mario, the reviews for Hands Of Stone are mediocre. Just like those other two films you mentioned!” But that means very little, honestly. 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction currently sits at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, and yet hispanics made up 26% of that film’s box office haul. That’s more than the 22% contributed by African-American audiences in this country, the 14% contributed by the “Asian/other” demographic, and second only to the 38% contributed by Caucasians.

A scene from TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF PUMPKIN SPICE

A scene from TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF PUMPKIN SPICE

So Latinos aren’t really too concerned with reviews, it would seem. 

And recent studies have shown that they make up a similarly large portion of the comic book movie audience- a genre that, aside of Cesar Chavez‘s Michael Peña in Ant-Man, isn’t exactly known for its love of hispanic actors and characters. 

The 2015 census revealed that hispanics make up 17% of the population in the United States, with a whopping 55 Million people. That makes them the largest ethnic or racial minority in the country.

I think it says something that we- yes, I’m switching to “we” as I’m a proud mixture of Cuban and Puerto Rican- have a huge amount of spending power, yet choose not to channel it into Latino projects. It’s been my stance, for ages, that most of us really just don’t give a damn. We don’t get caught up in “#OscarsSoWhite” stuff. We don’t get all activist and demand equal representation onscreen. We’re not interested in starting a movement.

We just want good, fun movies that entertain us and pull us away from real life for a couple of hours.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Also, not for nothing, but we also just quietly go and win many of the most prestigious Academy Awards. Did you know that all of the last three Best Director Oscars have gone home with a Mexican filmmaker? Or that you can swap out Director for Cinematographer in that last sentence and that it would also be true? Did you notice that none of the cinematic output (Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant) that garnered all of those awards- and impressive box office returns- had Latino themes or Latino stars as leads? 

Look, The Weinstein Company is trying to figure out how to make Hands Of Stone a hit. The film’s been in the can for ages. Principal photography finished back in March of 2014. It’s bumpy road to the big screen was supposed to culminate with a wide release last Friday before it was scaled down to a limited release. In that limited release window of the last five days, it’s made $1.7 million. Now, today, it’s set to go big. Finally.

Will Hands Of Stone prove to be what turns the tide for “Latino” movies? Will it put an end to the recent string of hispanic-themed historical dramas? Will it prove to activist-types that they’re barking up the wrong tree when it comes to trying to get us mad at Hollywood?

We’ll see. But I think you know what my predictions are.

And hey, I’m just me. I don’t speak for all of us. I’ve had heated discussions with Latino activists- and even a certain writer that used to work here- about this topic, and I respect them. But if Hands Of Stone just comes and goes, and doesn’t make back its reported $20 million budget, I think I’m just going to let the numbers do the talking for me.

Thanks for taking the time,

MFR

*UPDATE*

So, Labor Day Weekend has officially come and gone. How did things turn out for Hands Of Stone? Well, despite getting phenomenal ratings from fans, the film managed to bomb; and bomb hard. 

Last weekend, in its opening- which was only on around 700 screens- the movie made $1.7 million. This past weekend, where it expanded to 2,000+ screens, it made less than it did on 700 screens. Hands Of Stone pulled in just $1.6 million during its Friday through Monday holiday weekend, for a domestic cume of $4,025,207 for the $20 million flick.

Aye, caramba!

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer’s always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he’s always been something of a story junkie.