NEW YORK, NY — To increase awareness and bring the significance of Black cinema to the forefront, Film Life, Inc. and Black Enterprise magazine have teamed up to present Black Movie Month (BMM).

Having kicked off Oct. 1 and running through the end of the month, the BMM campaign will rally global audiences around black cinema. The mission of the campaign is to celebrate films made by, about and starring persons of African descent, and stimulate sales of black movies across various platforms, demonstrating the economic viability and influence of black audiences.

Throughout the month of October, consumers can visit to participate in trivia contests, find recommendations on film-related articles and books, chat live and learn about upcoming theatrical and DVD releases.

Most importantly, the site will feature a “Speak Up” section encouraging visitors to sign a petition to Hollywood studios advocating increased diversity of images and Black-themed stories onscreen.

Other “calls to action” featured on the site include: go see a movie; buy DVDs, stay informed, engage in dialogue, make your movie (or support someone else’s).

While black filmmakers and actors have broken many barriers, black-themed films have declined in recent years even as African Americans continue to over-index at the box office.

According to Reel Facts: A Movie Goer Consumption Study recently commissioned by BET Networks, African Americans account for 195 million trips to movie theaters annually. On average, African Americans make more frequent visits to the movies (13.4 times per year vs. 11 times per year for general market moviegoers).

Noting that more than 80 percent of the theater going audience is black, while fewer than 0.8 percent of films made in 2011 featured an African American cast, storyline or lead black star, the campaign is asking everyone to sign a petition to Motion Picture Industry that states:

"African Americans have a voracious appetite for entertainment and $6.3 billion in buying power, according to a recent Black Entertainment (BET) Networks report. The study states that 81 percent of the films seen by African Americans do not prominently feature an African American cast, storyline or lead Black star.

“While African Americans make up 12 percent of the total movie going audience and represent a total of 195 million trips to movie theaters annually, of the 402 releases in 2011 only four were made by or feature a person of African descent in a leading role: Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family (Lionsgate), Big Mamas: Like Father, Like Son (20th Century Fox), Jumping The Broom and Columbiana (TriStar Pictures).

“African American moviegoers seek content that is reflective of the diversity of Black life and not limited to one type of story. African Americans are not monolithic and have an appetite for films that range from blockbuster mainstream action films to African American romantic comedies.

“Given the above, we the undersigned ask that the supply of Black films with diverse stories meet the demand — $513 million spent annually by African Americans on movies.”

Jeff Friday, CEO of Film Life, Inc. and Founder of the American Black Film Festival, states, “In recent years, there has been a dramatic reduction of Black films produced within the Hollywood system. While a number of Black artists are now household names, overall Black culture has been marginalized and missing in motion pictures.”

The goal of the petition is to collect 200,000 names in 31 days so that studios and independent film financiers can take notice of a united voice.

“We hope this effort will lead to an increase in production of films targeted to African American audiences,” Friday added.

Photo: Courtesy of The film life inc.

‘SPEAK UP CAMPAIGN’: Grassroots effort wants Hollywood to better reflect blacks’ $6.3 billion entertainment buying power.