CinematographerPeter Deming (imdb link)
DirectorReginald Hudlin (imdb link)
GenreComedy; Teen
StudioNew Line
Aspect Ratio1.85
Format – 35mm with spherical lenses

The Film

“I’m surprised the immediate comparison is with Spike Lee and not John Hughes. Wanting to go to a party that your father doesn’t want you to is an American experience — it crosses generations and races.” – Reginald Hudlin, in a 1990 interview with Entertainment Weekly

After a fight at school leaves him on punishment, a teenager (Christopher “Kid” Reid) sneaks out anyway to attend his friend’s titular blowout. The directorial debut of Reginald Hudlin, House Party premiered at the 1990 Sundance film festival and became a breakout success two months later when it hit theaters.

House Party cost $2.5 million to make. With cable and home video deals in place, the film recouped its negative costs before its $4.5-million opening weekend. It made 10 times its production cost in domestic theatrical alone. I don’t know exactly what it’s done in home video, but I’ve been told it is the most stolen movie from video stores. And it’s not just popular in black neighborhoods. An Orange Country video store owner told me House Party is one of his biggest rentals.” Reginald Hudlin, in a 2000 interview with the L.A. Times

House Party expanded on a 20-minute short Hudlin made as his senior thesis at Harvard, though the origins of the project date back to his teenaged years.

“When I was in high school, my older brother (and House Party producer) Warrington gave me a book with blank pages and he says, ‘Stop telling me your movie ideas. Write them down.’ So over the years, I had collected all these little incidents or moments or snatches of dialogue. So then finally, I wrote a script that wove together all those moments that I collected over the years from my own life, or my friends or my brothers. That became the script for the student film version of House Party.” – Reginald Hudlin, from Black Film

House Party was released by New Line Cinema, a studio dubbed “The House That Freddy Built” because of the success of its Nightmare on Elm Street series. Freddy Krueger actually played a role in a piece of enduring House Party trivia. In 1988, the duo of DJ Jazzy Jeff (aka Jeffrey Allen Townes) & The Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) released a track titled “A Nightmare on My Street,” which featured Smith battling Krueger alongside an unlicensed sample from the film’s iconic score. New Line sued and the sides eventually settled. The deal gave Townes and Smith two options – pay New Line a cash penalty or star in two movies for the studio, with their salaries going toward the amount owed. The first script the studio offered was House Party. The pair turned it down and opted to simply pay the penalty. Ultimately, the roles were filled by another hip hop duo – Kid ‘n Play.

“Originally, I thought I would have to do the movie independently, but then New Line became interested and they wanted some folks with star power. I was a fan of the videos of Kid ‘n Play that were running on Video Music Box back then. I knew a young lady who worked for the management company they were with, and I asked them, ‘What’s the deal with those guys?’ She said, ‘Oh, they’re hard working. They always show up on time.’ So I said, ‘Great. Let’s see if they’d be interested in being in a movie.’ They were incredibly talented in the audition. They were funny, smart, and of course, could dance and had great visual style. But they had a big summer tour booked, and they would definitely make less money making the movie than doing the tour. I promised them in the long run that being in the movie will be better for their careers and that turned out to be true.” – Reginald Hudlin, from Black Film

Also check out the archive’s collection of frames organized by category.

The Frames

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