Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tyler Perry: A Big, Bright, Shining Star

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

Here's Sandler's:

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.


Michael said...

Perry isn't really competing with other Hollywood Movies and formulas. How many films are aimed at Middle Class Black Families?

He's the middlebrow filmmaker for African Americans.

Put a cockney accent in the soundtrack, bleach out the performers skins and you'll have critics raving how it's the best British import since Billy Elliott.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with Michael on the one hand, however Tyler is having to work with the mainstream 'formula' and has been sort of adapting his niche to better fit it. Don't be surprised if you see Tyler eventually branch off into films about other ethnicities so as to capture that demographic.