Friday, Jan. 20, was a much-anticipated date for me. There would be a piece of African-American history, my history, brought to the big screen in nearly 3,000 theaters across America in the form of a two-hour movie called “Red Tails.” Pittsburgh’s many multi-screen theaters would also be showing the movie about the famed Tuskegee Airmen: A group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II and boasted one of the most successful bomber escort records in the military. This, at a time when the American military was racially segregated and not accepting of African-American soldiers whom they deemed “not fit to fight.”
But one Pittsburgh multi-screen theater did not get that memo. After calling the Southside Works Cinema for movie times, the recording did not mention the movie “Red Tails.” Surely I thought this to be a mistake. Southside Works is, after all, just 5 short minutes from the Hill District, a neighborhood where 17 of the famed Tuskegee Airmen hailed from. Did they know that? Did they also know that Western Pennsylvania had the largest contingent of Tuskegee Airmen totaling nearly 90? Did they know that a Pittsburgh physician, Dr. Lanauze, a Tuskegee Airman, worked as a consultant on the movie? What theater wouldn’t be more than willing/proud to show this movie? That would be the Southside Works Cinema. After numerous calls to the theater I finally got through to a human being, and after inquiring as to why they were not showing this movie, a young man on the other end commenced to tell me that due to “bad ratings” the studio, at the last minute, refused to release the film to them. Really? And I can see Russia from my house!
I told him that his theater was showing a number of movies right now that received bad reviews, including the movie that came in No. 1 at the box office over the weekend, topping “Red Tails” which came in at No. 2.
He then told me to go to rottentomatoes.com where I would be able to read an accumulation of reviews from a number of sources. So I did. What I found were four movies currently showing at Southside Works Cinema that received slight better or worse reviews than “Red Tails, “which by the way, was given a “rotten” review on the website with a 34 percent rating.
“Underworld Awakening,” which topped the box office over the two-day weekend at $25.4M, also had a “rotten” review with only a 29 percent rating.
“Joyful Noise” received a “rotten” review with a 35 percent rating.
“Contraband” starring Mark Wahlberg received a “rotten” review, as well as “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” garnering a 48 percent and 49 percent rating respectively.
Return calls to Southside works went unanswered. With the information I was armed with I needed an explanation and possibly the REAL reason they were not showing “Red Tails.”
So-called “rotten review” aside, “Red Tails” came in No. 2 at the box office opening weekend and grossed $19.2 million!
I’ve been to Southside works a number of times to see movies, but after this slight and an apparent blatant LIE, I will never step foot in there again! Their refusal to show a movie consisting of an important and valuable part of my history is quite disturbing.
Therefore, Southside Works Cinema…You’re the one who is HISTORY!
Tracey M Jennings