The great William Goldman defines a movie star as an actor who can generate a big opening weekend gross. After the opening weekend, word of mouth can sink or lift a movie, but for that first weekend it's most often the star that puts people in the seats.
Using this definition Goldman posited in the mid-'90s that Jim Carrey was the biggest star in Hollywood--as opposed to, say, Mel Gibson or Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis--because he was able to generate big opening weekends for movies that, without his presence, would have barely registered a blip. Goldman believed that Adam Sandler succeeded Carrey as Hollywood's biggest star for the same reason in the mid- to late-'90s.
I'd posit for discussion that Tyler Perry might be on the verge of becoming a giant movie star, maybe the biggest in Hollywood. Last weekend his Why Did I Get Married? opened to $21.3M. It was his third-consecutive #1 opening. The other two movies opened to $21.9M and $30M. None of these films opened in more than 2,200 theaters.
To give some perspective, here are Carrey's early opening-weekend successes, with their theater counts:
12/16/94 Dumb and Dumber $16,363,442 2,447
07/29/94 The Mask $23,117,068 2,360
02/04/94 Ace Ventura $12,115,105 1,750
2/13/98 The Wedding Singer $18,865,080 2,821
2/16/96 Happy Gilmore $8,514,125 2,022
2/10/95 Billy Madison $6,639,080 1,834
And here's Perry's:
10/12/07 Why Did I Get Married $21,353,789 2,011
02/24/06 Madea's Family Reunion $30,030,661 2,194
02/25/05 Diary of a Mad . . . $21,905,089 1,483
If anything, I'd say that Perry's short run is even more impressive given that his budgets are a fraction of even what Carrey and Sandler's cheap movies cost and while I don't have the numbers on it, I'd bet Perry's studio, LGF, spent less money on advertising support. Probably a lot less.
Perry's have a great run. It'll be interesting to see what happens for him next.
17 minutes ago