The highly anticipated remake of “The Color Purple” debuted in theaters on Christmas Day, quickly proving itself a box office smash and reigniting interest in Alice Walker’s beloved novel and Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film adaptation.
Remake Debuts to Rave Reviews and Strong Ticket Sales
The new rendition of the story, featuring an all-Black cast led by Fantasia Barrino, debuted to widespread critical acclaim and impressive ticket sales.
Over the 4-day Christmas weekend, “The Color Purple” brought in $21.7 million domestically, marking both the second-highest Christmas debut ever and the top opening for a drama film released over the holidays (Source).
|4-Day Christmas Weekend Box Office
|Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
|The Color Purple
|Little Women (2019)
The film has earned a coveted A+ CinemaScore from audiences and a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics so far. Reviews have praised its revitalizing of Walker’s source material through soaring musical numbers and compelling performances.
“‘The Color Purple’ remains an exhilarating, larger-than-life journey concerning a woman who discovers her self-worth,” raved one critic.
Fantasia Fought for Starring Role
Leading lady Fantasia Barrino brings electric vocals and emotional depth to her turn as the story’s heroine, Celie. But the American Idol winner revealed she initially turned down the coveted part.
“I said no at first,” Barrino told CNBC. “I felt like it was something that I couldn’t touch or even live up to.”
The singer said she reconsidered after urging from family and friends. “Everybody was like, you’ve got to do this. It seems so perfect for who you are,” she recalled.
Barrino felt especially drawn to the musical’s messages of resilience. “No matter how hard life gets, you have to … find that mustard seed of faith and hope,” she said. “That’s what Celie did for me.”
Whoopi Goldberg Cameo Connects Remake to Original Film
While staying true to Walker’s novel, the remake also pays homage to Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated original through a surprise cameo from Whoopi Goldberg.
Goldberg won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance as Celie in the 1985 version. The EGOT winner briefly appears in the new film as sassy juke joint owner Miss Shug Avery, reprising the fan favorite role.
The cameo was filmed in secret and moved many viewers. “[Whoopi’s] participation felt like the perfect part,” screenwriter and producer Scott Sanders told People. “It tips the hat to the other movie.”
Director Blitz Bazawule said Goldberg recorded her scene in just 45 minutes. “She was in full hair and makeup all done up,” he told USA Today. “She gave me chills.”
Broadway Smash Gets Silver Screen Treatment
Unlike prior adaptations, this take on “The Color Purple” expands the source material into a vibrant movie musical.
The songs were carried over from the Tony-winning Broadway production which debuted in 2005. That stage show was itself based more closely on Walker’s novel than the 1985 Spielberg drama.
“This musical variation is truer to the emotive spirit of Ms. Walker’s [book],” writes film critic A.O. Scott in his New York Times review.
Translating the musical from stage to screen presented opportunities, explained director Bazawule. “Onstage, you’re limited by the constraints of a theater and budget. In the film, I could fill the entire screen with 60 people dancing,” he told Vanity Fair. “It gives scale.”
Story Continues Resonating Across Generations
“The Color Purple” endures in the public consciousness nearly 40 years after the novel’s publication.
Experts attribute its lasting impact to Walker’s candid tackling of issues like racism, domestic abuse and female empowerment.
“It was the first piece of literature I’d read by a woman that showed the hurt and harm Black women experienced,” said activist Janette McCarthy Wallace. Her Harlem book group has discussed the work for 30 years.
A recent Smithsonian article delved into the real-world figures and traumatic personal events behind Walker’s writing. The author herself said the novel flows “from outrage about crimes against women and children.”
For many fans today, that raw examination of generational pain remains painfully timely. Following a sold-out NYC premiere this month, audience member Tiye Love reflected that the story “deals with issues we are still facing. And the message that there is possibility beyond the pain resonates.”
What’s Next for “The Color Purple”
And given Hollywood’s fixation on franchises, could sequels or spin-offs come next? Walker’s novel does have a lesser-known follow up titled “The Temple of My Familiar.”
For now, the filmmakers and cast are focusing on celebrating a long-awaited big screen return of this beloved American tale.
“Knowing we were doing right by Ms. Walker’s words was all I needed,” leading lady Barrino told Parade Magazine. “This story deserves to be told again and again.”
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