Modern bromance movies are usually missing one thing, and that's the brothers. After peaking at the box office in the late 1990s and early 2000s with films like The Best Man, The Wood and the aptly named The Brothers, romantic comedies featuring an ensemble cast of black male leads were largely replaced by movies centered on black men in drag.
Hold on to your girdle, though, because all that might be about to change. Surprisingly, it took a book marketed to women to make a movie marketed to men.
Steve Harvey's best-selling relationship guide Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man blew up on the big screen last weekend retitled as Think Like a Man, pulling in nearly $33 million at the box office and knocking that other page-turner-turned-popcorn seller, The Hunger Games, from its three-week-long top spot.
So are you a Zeke, a Jeremy, a Michael or a Dominic?
Because what's even more exciting than the fact that a black rom-com bested the reigning box office champion is that more than half the seats in the theater were filled by men. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Males turned out in force, making up 63 percent of [Think Like a Man's] audience."
Starring Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Hart, Terrence Jenkins and Romany Malco, the film begins on the basketball court and the games continue from there. Instead of appealing solely to the book's built-in female audience by chronicling the relationship-related suffering of the film's talented chorus of women — Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall, Meagan Good and Gabrielle Union — the movie shifts its focus to the men. A bold move that actually pays off, according to several men who write frequently about relationships.
"It's surprising that a movie based on a book that so many men resented is now really successful [as a movie] because men came out to see it," says Jozen Cummings, a frequent contributor to The Root and creator of the relationship blog Until I Get Married, which chronicles his dating life in New York City.
Professional matchmaker and relationship coach Paul Carrick Brunson, whose new series, Lovetown, USA, premieres on OWN this summer, is also interested in the shifting perception of what makes men tick when it comes to ticket sales.
"The fact that men turned out in droves to watch a romantic comedy is a good illustration that we're not these nonemotional Neanderthals we're normally painted as," explains Brunson, who hasn't seen the film yet (wife, baby, TV show) but who plans to soon. "I've heard directly from men that Think Like a Man was a good movie and that Kevin Hart 'was funny as hell.' "
True, Hart, who plays the newly divorced-and-loving-it Cedric, steals nearly every scene he's in with too-good one-liners like when he explains the three rings of marriage: "the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the suffering." Funny as he is, though, Hart's comedy is only half the storyline. There is lots of romance to be had in Think Like a Man, and the men in the audience had to sit through those scenes, too. The question is, are men just as interested in soaking in some relationship advice from the screen as women are?
"Men are just as interested as women in finding and keeping love," explains Brunson. "A matter of fact, research shows that men over the age of 25 seek committed relationships at higher rates than women." The difference between the genders is the medium through which men and women consume information. Men, the old publishing mantra goes, do not read books.
Tony Gaskins, a relationship coach and author, agrees that men prefer visual mediums like movies and that an adaptation like Think Like a Man is a quick and easy way to "sit in on what women have been listening to.
"And just like the male characters in the movie, men want to know the information women are getting so they can counteract it," says Gaskins, before adding that no one wants to be left out and unknowingly "sucked in by a power move."
The number of men at the theater could also be just that — a power move. According to Damon Young, one-half of the hilarious duo behind Very Smart Brothas, single men will show up wherever the single women are. It's as simple as that.
"There's a good chance that the men attending in droves treated it like a nightclub," says Young. "Basically, they made sure they were there because they assumed that's where all the women would be."
Cummings echoes that sentiment: "It may sound ridiculous, but I really do think it's that simple. In most places, the movie theater is the spot. If you see a flock of women, then guys will follow." But many of the men I talked to added that Think Like a Man's marketers added some crumbs along the way.
The business side of the movie and not just the content was the catalyst behind the audience, according to Brunson, pointing to the film's "brilliant casting," the release date (when no other "green screen" or testosterone-heavy movies were premiering) and the marketing push. "I saw ads for Think Like a Man at my male-heavy gym," explains Brunson.
Quoting the saying "Black people need to take a plane to get to the places that white people can walk to," Cummings emphasizes that Think Like a Man's box office success is due to heavy lifting behind the scenes. The marquee actors in the film are showing up at college-campus screenings and red carpets outside of New York and Los Angeles.
So if Hollywood has become nostalgic for black bromances, then perhaps a new formula has come into play for black audiences.
"Ultimately we can see more films like this getting made," says Cummings, "but it's going to take a lot of work."