Magic Johnson Produced a Classic Hip Hop Film

Magic Johnson isn’t the average legendary athlete. His business profile expands across several industries but the one industry that Johnson is synonymous with is the movie business. In addition to owning movie theaters, Johnson is also a content curator and has executive produced several films. One of which is the romantic comedy and hip hop film Brown Sugar.

Nicole Ari Parker, Magic Johnson, Sanaa Lathan, and Taye Diggs
Nicole Ari Parker, Magic Johnson, Sanaa Lathan, and Taye Diggs | Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Magic Johnson’s work in the film business includes owning several movie theaters 

Johnson played professional basketball for over a decade and is one of the greatest players to ever step on the court. But when thinking of what life would be like outside of sports, Johnson’s career expansion was non-traditional. Instead of becoming a sports analyst, coach, or agent, Johnson set his eyes on working behind the scenes in Hollywood. 

Johnson began opening Magic Johnson theaters in 1994 through a partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment. The idea was to bring world-class movie theater experiences to urban areas throughout the country.

Magic Johnson Theaters
Magic Johnson outside of Magic Johnson Theaters | Jean Marc Giboux/Liaison

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As for why he branched out into the movie business, a 2002 report in The Morning Call reveals that he’s always had a love for movies.

“All I do is go to movies,” he said. “That’s why I opened my theater chain and that’s why I’m getting into producing.” Furthermore, Johnson explained why traditional theaters are his go-to. “I like watching movies with an audience and I talk back to the screen and I enjoy the whole experience.”

Johnson had six theatres by the 2000s in major cities including Atlanta and LA. Currently, the only theater left under his name that is still operating in business is in Harlem, New York.

Magic Johnson executive produced ‘Brown Sugar’ – the film became a huge success

In July 2002, it was announced that Johnson’s first film to tackle would be as the executive producer of Brown Sugar. The film is a romantic comedy about two childhood friends with a shared love of hip hop who later grapple with their romantic feelings for one another.

The film stars Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs and was coined as an urban When Harry Met Sally.

Source: YouTube

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Released in October 2002, the film was met with positive reviews. An LA Times review praised both the acting and storyline, reading, “Brown Sugar is as satisfying as it is sleek, and Famuyiwa inspires carefully nuanced portrayals from his cast, which includes Mos Def as a humorous hip-hop artist who would rather drive a cab than sell out. Indeed, “Brown Sugar” proves as appealing as its title.”

With a budget of just $8 million, the movie grossed over $28 million worldwide. 

Johnson also played a hand in the film’s soundtrack as it was distributed from his own record label. 

Magic Johnson has produced other films

Brown Sugar was just the start for Johnson. He worked as the executive producer for the 2009 urban thriller Obsessed starring Beyoncé and Idris Elba. The film opened up at No. 1 in the box office its opening weekend and made over $70 million against its $20 million budget.

Johnson also has his own television network, Aspire, which was launched in 2012. The network’s targeted audience is African Americans with an intent to provide quality entertainment content.