On This Day In Comedy… In 1988 ‘Coming To America’ Was Released By Paramount Pictures


On this day in comedy on June 29, 1988, “Coming to America” was released by Paramount Pictures, 1988.   

Reuniting Eddie Murphy and director John Landis, the comedy is about African crown prince, Akeem Joffer, from the fictional nation of Zamunda, who comes to the United States in the hopes of finding a bride. The film co-stars Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Shari Headley and John Amos.

Following a negative press screening in New York, Paramount cancelled all press screenings of the film.  Their concern proved to be unfounded as the film was a commercial box-office success, both domestically and worldwide, grossing $288,752,301, making it the highest earning film that year for the studio and the third-highest grossing film at the United States box office.

“Coming To America” was nominated for two Oscars: Best Costume Design by Deborah Nadoolman Landis and Best Makeup by Rick Baker.  The soundtrack featured the hits “Coming to America” by The System and “Come into My Life” by Laura Branigan and Joe Esposito which were released as singles.  “That’s the Way It Is” by Mel & Kim became a top ten hit in the UK.

It seemed the only downside was the 1990 Buchwald v. Paramount civil suit.  Humorist Art Buchwald claimed the film’s idea was stolen from his 1982 script treatment; a treatment Paramount had optioned from him, with John Landis attached as director and Murphy as the lead, but after two years in development, the studio dropped the project in 1985.   Then in 1987, Paramount began working on Coming to America based on a story by Murphy.    Buchwald won for breach of contract and settled out-of-court.

By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton


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