To summarize (expect a longer post on this project later; consider this a tease), Vanessa and myself have been working diligently on creating a sortable database of all the “black films” that have been released theatrically between 1990 and 2012

Why only go back to 1990? Other than the fact that it’s a lot of work to compile all the data, 1990 seemed like a good starting point – one that gives us a snapshot of where contemporary “black cinema” stands.

Also worth noting – the available annual release information on films (online anyway, which is what we used for our research) starts to get a little murky pre-1990, especially where non-studio “black films” are concerned. So 1990 and on, felt safe.

How are we defining “black films“? Simple: films that tell stories primarily about characters of African descent. A black person’s story has to be the film’s centerpiece. So, for example, we didn’t include any interracial buddy cop movies like 48 Hours, or the Rush Hour franchise of films. 

While I won’t guarantee that we counted every single “black film” during the 1990 to 2012 years, I’m very confident that our margin of error is very low.

As you can imagine, it was quite a tedious endeavor for both Vanessa and myself, but very well worth it, because we plan to manipulate the data in a variety of ways, and see what we can learn about how far “black cinema” has come in the last 23 years. The database includes almost every major item you’d want to know about any film. Sure, that information can be found on a variety of websites online, but nothing like what we have, all in one location, sortable, chartable, etc.

We tend to talk in generalities about where “black cinema” is, but it’s so much more empowering and invigorating when one is actually able to look at hard data. Nothing beats facts!

So for the next few weeks, we’ll be working to clean up the data, and start to really play with it to see what we learn, and we’ll of course be sharing all of our findings right here on S&A. The eventual goal is to make this database accessible to all, once it’s where we need it to be.

Today, I thought I’d tease you with an example of what’s to come. Specifically, the chart you see below, as the title states, shows the studios with the most “black film” releases between 1990 and 2012. The top 20 studios to be exact. There are other companies that released 1 or 2 films within those 22/23 years, but when I included them all on the chart, it just didn’t look very good, and it was hard to separate each one, because of how tightly they were packed together. So I settled on just the studios with at least 3 “black film” releases, which conveniently totaled 20, making the chart much easier to read, a you can see.

I should note that the studios listed below include all the consolidating that’s happened in the time period. For example, New Line Cinema released several “black films” in the 1990s, but it eventually became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. So I’m placing all New Line Cinema films under Warner Bros.

But there’s a lot more to come – and not just charts – that’ll identify trends, patterns, dominant themes, etc, in “black cinema” over the last 23 years, whether covering the entire period, or specific years within, for comparison. And as we continue to unveil more of what we find, the more we’ll learn about how far “black cinema” has come, and where we are today.

Of course, from here on, we’ll add to the database as more films are released theatrically, including 2013 and forward.

Here’s the sample tease I mentioned above. Click on the image for a larger view: