George Lucas: Star Wars Director Loses $60 Mil Plus on “Red Tails”

Roger Friedman, Forbes, March 29, 2012

George Lucas has some of the most successful movies of all time in the history books with his “Star Wars” movies. But Lucas also has one of the biggest turkeys of all time now, too, with the total failure of “Red Tails.” An ambitious  and well-intentioned telling of the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew in World War II—the forgotten black members of the Air Force—“Red Tails” cost at least $58 million to make plus another $10 million for marketing. (I’m being conservative.) No one wanted to finance it, so Lucas put up the money himself and got 20th Century Fox to distribute it. He worked on the film for three years as producer, but ultimately had to reshoot a lot of director Anthony Hemingway’s work. They intentionally skipped Oscar season, and slid the movie into release in mid January—the dead zone in the movie world, the place where bad films are sent to watery graves.

And now, ten weeks later, “Red Tails” is at rest with barely $50 million in the bank. Since theater owners got half that money, “Red Tails” is really, really red. So far there’s no been no foreign release; it’s hard to imagine there will be much of one coming. {snip} In the end, Lucas loses something close to $70 million on a noble vanity project that at least made the families of the Tuskegee Airmen feel good about themselves. {snip}

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  • cloudswrest

    Paul Kersey at SBPDL refers to it as Red Tales (sic).

  • Boereseun

    When you produce a film which embellishes the truth to the point that it’s more fiction than fact, no amount of marketing will get you your money back. In this day and age, movie goers are not that interested in the ‘Magic Black’ to be honest. We’ve had enough of the Freeman, the Denzel Washington and the Jackson. To watch the biggest bunch of fibs, as a film supposedly inspired by a ‘true’ story, is about as appealing to me as being hit with a 9 iron. 

    Then again, if the true story had been told without the massive ego boosting rubbish, there would be no one interested in watching it anyway, not even the blacks that can go watch by paying with welfare.

    As Hollywood is probably finding out, trying to sell the ‘racist white’ crap on screen is not doing as well as it once did. Keep hitting where it really hurts, the pocket!

    • You probably thought Braveheart was a completely true story.

      Most historic films are embellished.

      • Boereseun

        Braveheart being an embellished story of William Wallace is not really the question here. There is no ‘based on’ or ‘inspired by’ a true story at the beginning of Braveheart. We all know it’s a bit of history with a mad dash of Scottish pride. However, what sold Braveheart and other non-factual based historical accounts, that were movie successes, wasn’t that they were embellished stories but because they were stories told rather well through the screen. In plain English, they were enjoyable to watch.

        If you’re going to embellish history and make it totally fiction, as with Red Tails, you had better make sure you are selling a damn well told story. I’m sorry, most whites that I know of are sick to death of seeing movies with so called white ‘racists’ and good, know it all blacks. There’s nothing new about ‘Red Tales’, it’s the same old, boring, over told, nonsensical drivel that we have come to expect from pro-black movies.

        Most historical accounts are embellished mainly because we don’t have all the information on hand, but instead rely on a bit of oral history that has been passed down, which obviously comes with a little bias. When doing a story based on an historical account, you know you’re not going to be factually completely correct but you try to stay within the bounds of reasonableness. Not so with Red Tails, once again, all their accounts are documented rather well. You have to be willfully blind not to see that they did away with factual history and made up half the movie with blind pandering to the black minority of America.

        Anyone thinking Braveheart is an accurate account of exactly what happened between the English and Scots, is not paying attention. Doesn’t change the fact that the movie was very entertaining and that’s why it was a success.

        • I do appreciate your reply.

          I disagree with “We all know it’s a bit of history with a mad dash of Scottish pride. ”

          You know this but I am sure most people think it is true history.

          I disagree that the reason the film flopped is that it twisted history. There are many films that do that I am sure even more. It flopped most likely because it just was not good movie. They have to do re shooting, almost never a good sign (Except for Back to the Future, which turned out better when they changed actors).

  • sbuffalonative

    Blacks are 13% of the US population. Making a black film is appealing to a niche market. This is why Hollywood doesn’t make many black film; the audience pool is small and unless the film is inexpensive to produce or appeals to specific black tastes (seeing themselves as stereotype, also known as ‘keepin’ it real’) the film will likely lose money.

    Hollywood doesn’t make black films because they’re necessarily racist, but because black films are unlikely to turn a sizable profit. Black films are simply too high risk of losing money or little return on investment.

    • Boereseun

      As it was one of his pet ‘vanity projects’. George probably new damn well it would fail. However, they all have to pay their respects to their diversity Gods. No exceptions.

      • I thought he did that with Lando Calrissian. 

        • Boereseun

          It’s an on going penance.

    • And yet, there are those who claim that the “blaxploitation” films of the early 197o’s actually saved Hollywood’s financial bacon. That, without those films raking in the money, Hollywood studios would have gone belly-up.

    • haroldcrews

      Additionally the foreign appeal would be very limited.  The return on dvd sales would be rather low I expect.

  • Heinrich24

    “…the forgotten black members of the Air Force…”

    Forgotten??? Good God, I’ve heard this Tuskegee tall tale told so many times, so many ways it  has taken on a life all its own over the years!  What hogwash…forgotten indeed!!

    • gemjunior

      LOL – so funny.  It’s like a nightmare, a not-funny nightmare that descend on us with grim repetition, lest we be inclined to forget the black man can operate complicated machinery.

      I’m waiting till the libs find out there are no blacks working at the CERN lab creating anti-matter.  We should put them in charge there, right away, as affirmative action is only fair.  And another thing, it doesn’t look like they have their fair share on the nuclear facilities in the U.S. so again, affirmative action STAT.  It’s a shame to let only white scientists.  What about the black man.  Don’t expect to live very long

  • My girlfriend and I actually went to see this movie……..for laughs.  Let’s just say we were not let down.  It was pure fantasy, and pure comedy!   What a joke.

    • Oil Can Harry

      Oh well, at least the theatre was spacious and you had plenty of elbow room…

  • ncpride

    No doubt he’ll blame “racist White” America for his blunder, or has he already?

    • Oil Can Harry

      The funny thing is Lucas was whining endlessly that the Hollywood studios weren’t interested  in financing his film because they correctly predicted it would be a floperoo.

      Instead he claimed the studios  were racist- no doubt to impress his much younger black girlfriend. Maybe the film should’ve been called Black Tail since that was the reason he made it. 

  • Detroit_WASP

    Well, I heard George got some black tail out of the deal.   So I guess it wasn’t a total loss.  

  • Honestly, most blacks would rather pay $3 0r $4 for a bootleg DVD than pay the $12 0r $15 entry fee or whatever the going rate is to see it in a theater. Years ago, I actually borrowed one of these bootlegs from a fellow I work with. Seems it was recorded on a handheld camcorder in a theater. I could only get thru about 10 minutes of it. Horrid. But the black guy selling them had a booming business. Paying to see it in a theater is just helping the (white) man make a profit.

    • Blacks go to see movies at the theater more than whites on avg. Will you admit you are wrong on this?

  • LOL @ Lucas for thinking his perceived audience had the attention span for the media he is producing.  Bad investment strategy all the way around and I can’t say I’m not happy he lost a ton of cash!   I am sullied on anything this SOB does, period.  This article is great, though. 

    This had me rolling: “In the end, Lucas loses something close to $70 million on a noble vanity
    project that at least made the families of the Tuskegee Airmen feel
    good about themselves. So that’s something, and Lucas can certainly
    afford it. Now, on to “Indiana Jones 5″ and please, no aliens.”

  • crystal evans

    Lucas may get some of that money back when the DVD version is released. There are people that will wait until the DVD comes out to watch a movie. As far as black films go, the only black films that have made money in recent years is Tyler Perry’s movies. Usually the open at number one or two at the box office.

  • 1gravity

    There may be another factor here.  Who really wants to see a movie about Americans killing Germans?  We all know about WWI and WWII.  There is no reason to relish that either occurred.

    • crystal evans

      Blacks will definitely either rent or purchase this movie and they will tell their kids this is the history of their ancestors.

    • The_Bobster

      Who wants to see endless films about the Holocaust?

    • Whocares about killing Germans? They were the enemy. They bombed England.

      • 1gravity

         Germans died in Flanders Fields too.  My point is that, in 2012, we ought to be beyond watching Germans, or Japanese for that matter, being killed on screen for our entertainment. 

      • 1gravity

         Germans died in Flanders Fields too.  My point is that, in 2012, we ought to be beyond watching Germans, or Japanese for that matter, being killed on screen for our entertainment. 

  • ViktorNN

    I have three things to say about this: HA HA HA!!!

  • sbuffalonative

    We could throw this back at Mr. Lucas and say that his comments about racism drove white audience away or that perhaps blacks were offended that a white man made a film about their black history instead of a black director.

  • I knew nobody would go see that turkey. The dialog was embarrassing.

    That “We Fight!” chant was the sort of Negro jibberish you’d see a defensive line chant during an NFL game. Ray Lewis crap.

    Then they had somebody do this terrible line in the trailer. He’s in this P52 and he overtakes a ME-262, one of the first jets. When he kills the ME-262 (to the best of my knowledge no black has ever done this and no Tuskegee airmen ever downed more than 5 aircraft to get Ace designation) he screams, and I am not making this up…


    Take. Dat. Mistah. Hitlah. Man.

    I wouldn’t watch that crap with my worst enemy’s eyeballs. Looks like most everybody else had the same opinion.

  • ageofknowledge

    Fiction. Not interested. I like non-fiction.

  • SLCain

    “An ambitious  and well-intentioned telling of the stories of the
    Tuskegee Airmen who flew in World War II—the forgotten black members of
    the Air Force…”

    Hah.  They have to be, by now, the most well remembered flyers in the USAAF.

    To be fair to the movie, George Lucas is a really bad director.  His general ineptness behind the camera may have something to do with the films failure.  Had it been helmed by someone else, it might have fared better.

    I wonder if Lucas’s inability to find Hollywood backing for his new projects has something to do with this:

  • MikeofAges

    I can only speak for myself, but I wanted “Red Tails” to be a film a I wanted to see. In the end I didn’t give it a lot of priority and ended up not seeing it. The Tuskegee airmen fought for America and they deserve credit for it. I think they did a pretty good job of escorting their bombers, as good as anybody. Those who lost their lives are not less dead because of who they were. Just remember that.

    I’m sure I will see the movie someday, but frankly I was deterred by the idiocy of some of the reviews and written features about the film. Do these always-a-little-off-base renditions of how life worked in the segregation era have to be repeated ad nauseum? I would settle for a little realism about how things were back then. You know, like what the buildings and accommodations were like, what the men ate, smoked (I am speaking of the ubiquitous cigarette) and drank, what the women wore and how they acted, and, more than  anything, accurate combat sequences. Segregation was part of it, but I don’t need the incessant lectures.

    I don’t think the film it self went so over the top in the matter of pointing the accusing finger at the majority. Keep in mind, a movie is only a movie. Lucas was going for a PG-13 rating. To the kids to went to it, it was just a war movie and that’s all they wanted out of it.

    • Southern__Hoosier

       I agree with you. ” The Tuskegee airmen fought for America and they deserve credit for it.” So did millions of other Americans.  The problem with the The Tuskegee airmen they have been hyped into some sort of infallible gods. I don’t mean to belittle there accomplishments,  but if you take the top 1% of any population group, you will have some outstanding individuals.

      • ed91

         I’ve spent time with blacks in the military, some in combat, and for the most part they are a drag on the unit……..  lots of personal problems, selfishness, white/black imaginations, etc etc —  5-10 % were of benefit to the unit and mission.

        • Southern__Hoosier

          My experience too. I was in the Navy and assigned to a security unit at NAS Sigonella. The only person in the whole outfit I would trust my life to in a bad situation was a Black Gunnery Sergeant assigned to our unit. On the other hand we had the black girl in our unit. She was useless as a 1St Class was even more useless when she made Chief.

      • Dont talk halfway resonable here, you will get lynched as a race traitor.
        Remember blacks are all dumb.

        • Southern__Hoosier

          Yeah you be right, just wishful thinking on my part that there might me a few reasonable Blacks. If there are, they will be lynched along with the whites.

  • Southern__Hoosier

    The average AMREN reader could of told Lucas the film would have been a failure.  

  • SLCain

    “John Carter, a very white film, lost a bucket load of money.  The film embellished history so that is why it was not successful!”

    If you think that the film “John Carter” is an embellishment of history, then you have a strange notion of history.  What part of human history took place on …………… Mars?

  •  I would like to point out to everyone that the box office “flop” of Red Tails is by no means the end of its profit-making life. It is not yet been released on DVD or for PPV orders, and is has not yet been offered to the television networks for replay. Remember that “Pearl Harbor” failed badly too, but became quite profitable later due to DVD sales.

    George Lucas’ problem as a director is that he quite poor at budgeting. He makes his movies so expensive that he can easily fail to recoup his costs. Red Tails, moreover, was not expected to earn him much money. It was his way to gain a new level of prestige amongst the Hollywood liberal scene in a way geekish sci-fi films like the Star Wars series couldn’t really do.

    I predict that he will ultimately break even on Red Tails, especially it will no-doubt be featured in weekly rotation in European countries (the same way “Mississippi Burning” is).

    • ed91

       you’re correct… will be required watching for every elementary school through college………. every boy’s club will have to buy one etc.

      • Southern__Hoosier

         I agree. I’m sure Comrade Obama will create some type of educational grant with taxpayer money to purchase this turkey.

        • Hell, it will probably be put into the Library of Congress too. 

  • ncpride

    So did the merchandise associated with that film. The clothes, dolls, books… NONE of it sold and was on clearance racks within weeks… and I would know as a former insider.

  • saxonsun

    How right you are.

  • Dan

    Lucas is a lying scumbag who tried to profit off of anti-White propaganda and screwed himself in the process. I hope the dirty SOB loses everything he owns.

  • ed91

     he’ll take it off his taxes and still come out ahead……….

  • The_Bobster
  • Screamin_Ruffed_Grouse

     Interesting you mention Band of Brothers. It’s been several years since I watched it, but I recall it was the only WWII piece I can think of that gave even the slightest hint that the Nazis might in fact be human.

    Specifically, one scene where American soldiers look on in horror as one of their own mows down a group of German prisoners after offering them cigarettes; and another where the main character spends his leave in Paris being haunted by the face of the German soldier- barely more than a boy- whose eyes he met in battle, right before he killed him.

    •  Indeed, and despite the fact it was a Spielberg production.

  • Dave4088

    I’m happy to learn that George Lucas’ attempt at glorifying the highly exaggerated exploits of black WWII pilots has proven a spectacular failure.   I think that most whites are disinterested in movies with a majority black cast, but more importantly, I think many recognize this movie as historical revisionism and politically correct hokum that it really is. 

  • Holinsbart

    Most whites do not seek out the company of blacks unless forced into it through court ordered diversity.

    White would have no interest in this made up fable of these high flying blacks.

    And black will not help anyone incuding other blacks.

    I talk to black business people and they tell me 98% of their clients are white because other blacks do not want to see another black get ahead

  • anonymous_amren

    “He worked on the film for three years as producer, but ultimately had to reshoot a lot of director Anthony Hemingway’s work.”

    In case you’re wondering why… Anthony Hemingway is black. Hiring a black person to do a job is a sure way to have to redo a lot of their work yourself afterwards.

    • Oh, boy.  Doubly delicious, self-inflicted punishment.

      It reminds me of the experience of Pepsi, which disinvested from South Africa in protest against against Apartheid.  All that did, of course, was hand their market share to Coke on a platter.  After civilization fell in South Africa, Pepsi tried to make a comeback – but they did it the politically correct way;  Affirmative Action staffing all the way.  Even their shares were offered only to blacks.

      It was not an unqualified success. Pepsi’s second exit from SA was accompanied by a lot less sanctimonious posturing than its first.

  • MikeofAges

    I think the Red Tails stayed with their bombers because that was a very strong issue with their commanders. They were trained to do so, ordered to do so, and did. Not to get too down on the American pilots who went out and engaged the Germans pilots in single combat. Obviously, a dead pilot or a destroyed plane can never, ever menace your forces again. But it’s till hard to stack that up against a lost bomber crew that could have been saved.

  • Torrents.

    White and Asian kids download more than anyone. Just ask you kids.

    Blacks buy more movie tix on avg.

  • Maybe you have never seen The Wire.

    White hipsters love it.

    One of the best shows ever made.

    • Nope, never have, never will. Even if they really were noble, good and intelligent, negroes would still be as ugly as sin.  From what I gather, the Wire has no redeeming qualities at all – pure negritude.

      • I not sure if this website is racist enough for you.

        Might have to go to Vanguard or something.

  • 1gravity

    The most admirable character in Inglorious was the captured middle aged German soldier, hardly a raving Nazi, who, when faced with certain death, almost politely refused to divulge information on the whereabouts of other German soldiers. 

  • I sure didn’t, and I consider myself well read on the war. 

  • JohnEngelman

    In looking through history books detailing America’s
    World War II Army Air Force ‘aces’, one thing stood out: the Tuskegee Airmen
    had absolute no impact on the course of the Allies winning the war over the Axis
    Powers. Not one of the famed Red Tails earned the honorific of ‘ace’ (meaning
    five or more confirmed aerial kills), compared to a list of more than 1,200 white American
    fighter pilots who earned that title during World War II. Aces like Chuck
    Yeager, who would go on to be the first person to break the sound-barrier, an
    arbitrary record in Black-Run America (BRA), a world that only honors those who
    were the first to break the much more important color-barrier.

    to contemporary claims, the involvement of the Black fighter pilots was
    inconsequential to the overall war effort. Yes, 72 members of
    the Tuskegee Airmen shot down 109 enemy aircraft, but when you consider
    America’s great World War II ‘ace’ Richard Bong shot down 40
    planes himself, you have to wonder why the story of the Black pilots
    overshadows one such as Bong’s? Have you ever heard of Bong?     

  • Uber racist

    Uber racist whites in America don’t wanna watch a movie where black people are portrayed as anything other than maids, slaves, drug dealers, pimps or murderers. That’s the sad fact.

  • Mary Shaver

    Wow, racism is truly alive and well in America. First you have people who want to rewrite history and say that Blacks played no part in fighting for their country, then when you can’t realistically claim that anymore you try to say that their contribution didn’t count. You people are truly pathetic.

  • Chris Mallory

    I can’t believe say racism is dead. You ignorant, racist haters prove the opposite. All racist people want to see that whites are superior and are the heroes. Real history shows that you are cowards and less than other races. What is fictitious and white inflated is the history you portray in the history books. Be intelligent and not ignorant like your forefathers and do research, most everything you use daily in life and saves lives daily was invented by blacks.