Corvallis’ Trend of Neglect for a Black Cast

Corvallis—statistically a predominantly white-populated, yet progressive city—is being called out for a bad habit of inhabitants’ neglect for mostly black-casted films.

Paul Turner, owner of the Darkside Cinema—where the repeat award-nominated movie Moonlight has had an extended stay, with a meager turnout—spoke out about this pattern. Turner personally wonders if this is due to the people of Corvallis needing to relate to something on multiple levels in order to experience it in any medium.

“No matter how progressive we are, if we are not drawn to something, it can seem we are repelled by it,” said Turner.

Moonlight is the tale of a young African-American man coming to age in a dysfunctional family. He is struggling with his identity and how to find it, as well as with his sexuality and how to accept it. Sadly, according to Turner, Corvallis doesn’t seem to want to see Moonlight or other films like it, featuring a primarily black cast—portraying urban culture or otherwise—unless, however, these films have been showered with awards.

Turner explained that, years back, he examined the sales of black dramas that hadn’t received awards—all did poorly. Tickets for 12 Years a Slave were barely selling, until it won the Oscar and 236 other accolades. Hustle and Flow is another example of what’s been regarded as an excellent film—82% on Rotten Tomatoes—but brought in no money at the Darkside. Turner said he personally beat a dead horse for that one, as he found it so worthy of being seen, but to no avail. Louder Than Bombs, Precious, and Brooklyn Castle are a few more that died fast and hard after only a short stint on the big screen at our local downtown theater.

It’s unclear if Corvallis’ bigger cinemas have experienced the same pattern, or if they’ve noted similar circumstances. When asked to weigh in on the issue, Carmike Cinemas declined to comment.

Turner is currently using all sources to push the film Moonlight—to break through to Corvallis—as he feels it’s an absolute must-see. “Moonlight is one of the finest films I’ve seen this year. I’m hoping I have enough credibility that my affection for this film will be contagious,” he said. Still skeptical? Don’t worry; it has about three pages’ worth of nominations.

By Leah Biesack