Charles D. King left his perch as a partner at WME in 2015 to launch a content company focused on giving creative and business opportunities to storytellers of color. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” the period drama that bows Feb. 12 in theaters and on HBO Max, is the epitome of the producer-entrepreneur’s larger goal with Macro, King tells Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”
King and his wife, Macro chief brand officer Stacey Walker King, planted the Macro flag “with a vision of empowering and supporting people of color and diverse storytellers,” Charles King says. “The vision was having people of color be at the center of the content that we would produce and finance,” he says.
The Kings self-financed Macro in its first few months of operations. Charles King used all of his industry connections and dealmaking savvy to raise enough capital to give Macro the ability to finance or co-finance its own projects. Having money in the game would give King and his various partners real sway over the fate of the project.
If Macro and partners hadn’t put up half of the financing for “Judas,” about the murder of Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton at the hands of the FBI, the movie would not have been made with a first-time studio director Shaka King, and stars Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. The project was developed with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler’s Proximity Media. Warner Bros. landed the movie after a competitive sale process.
“By going to market with a great script, two amazing actors and Shaka, a visionary filmmaker, and the clout that Ryan Coogler brought, plus Macro bringing half of the financing to the table with a great production plan,” King says. “That put us in a position to be partners, so this movie is not purely driven by the studio. That also helped us support Shaka’s vision and how he cast the movie and to keep it as authentic as possible.”
“Judas” is among the Warner Bros.’ 2021 film titles that is getting a simultaneous release on HBO Max and in theaters. King acknowledges some concern about “how it was messaged” from the studio to creative partners before the news surfaced in early December. But King does sympathize with the business dilemma that Warners is facing with movies in the can and pandemic conditions putting a huge dent in theatrical box office.
“Judas” was designed from the start to be a wide-release, commercial movie. The lack of a big U.S. theatrical performance will likely have an impact on the film’s prospects overseas. But he has no doubt that the movie, because of its subject matter at a time of heightened focus on racial and social justice issues, will perform for the studio and its priority of bringing subscribers to HBO Max.
“There could not be a more in-the-moment need to see this film for the culture right now,” he says. “I think it will bring a wider audience to HBO Max.”