Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Weekend Box Office Finals (02/24/09)

Sorry for the delay... real life got in the way.

I usually make fun of people who are constantly astounded by Tyler Perry's box office prowess. But this time I'd wager even Mr. Perry himself was a little surprised at cracking the $40 million mark. Tyler Perry's seventh film, and his third Madea comedy, crushed the competition over Oscar weekend. Madea Goes To Jail grossed $41 million, becoming the holder of Lionsgate's biggest opening weekend ever (it's a whopping $8 million more than Saw III opened to back in October 2006). Aside from a cameo in Meet The Browns and occasional appearances on the TV series House Of Payne, Tyler Perry hasn't donned the fat suit since 2006's Madea's Family Reunion (which ended up with $63 million). In between Madea films, he's directed four films, produced two plays, and created two television shows. What have you done with yourself since Febraury 2006?

Perry burst onto the scene in 2005 with Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, which stunned everyone by grossing $21 million over opening weekend and finishing up with $50 million (I personally remember looking at the poster and thinking 'oh good, someone gave Steven Harris a lead role'). Perry's follow up was the $30 million opening for Madea's Family Reunion (it ended with $63 million). On the other hand, nothing he's done since has come even close to that watermark (which is ironic, as his films have gotten progressively better). Daddy's Little Girls, the only film in which Perry did not appear, opened to a mere $13 million and finished with $31 million. The follow up, Why Did I Get Married, featured prominent star turns by Perry and Janet Jackson, and opened to $21 million and finished with $55 million. Meet The Browns, which was actually a cocktail of several different Perry plays, opened with $20 million and closed with just under $42 million. Finally, The Family That Preys was crippled by snow storms over opening weekend and had to settle for a $17 million opening. Alas, it never recovered and ended up with $37 million.

So, as you can see, Madea Goes To Jail has out grossed the entire domestic figures of The Family That Preys and Daddy's Little Girls in just three days. It was less than $1 million away from Meet The Browns, so we can assume that Madea Goes To Jail is now Perry's fourth highest grossing film. By next weekend, assuming it doesn't tumble harsher than other Perry pictures (they usually drop upwards of 50% in the second weekend), it will be his new champion. This isn't just a case of Madea fans coming out in force. Perry really hit the press circuit on this one, and Lionsgate cut a very broad ad campaign that emphasized the larger than life nature of Madea, rather than the spiritual and moralistic elements at play with Perry's output. As a friend put it, Tyler Perry snagged the 'Paul Blart demographic' with this one.

Of course, we'll see how those unsuspecting white and/or agnostic viewers take to the heavily spiritual and somewhat socially conservative content mixed in with the 'big fat black guy in a dress' comedy. Regardless, it is absolutely shameful that no one has bothered to cast Perry in a big studio tent pole. Hell, he'd probably have better luck in Beverly Hills Cop IV than Eddie Murphy would at this point. Cast him alongside Adam Sandler in a comedy and everybody wins. He's a solid actor and he obviously has a big, expanding fan base. Although JJ Abrams is taking a step in the right direction, casting Perry as 'Starfleet Academy President' in the new Star Trek film.

There are only three other box office stories of note. First of all, Taken will cross $100 million next weekend, which is incredible considering the film had been released in Europe for almost a year and there has been a DVD quality bootleg available online for months (I guess piracy isn't the great Satan of Hollywood). This is a huge win for Fox and if they have half a brain, we will see a sequel in the next two years. Secondly the absolutely fantastic Coraline has now surpassed Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride and the original release gross of The Nightmare Before Christmas (counting those Halloween 3D re releases, the original Henry Selick directed picture has grossed $75 million). As of the next couple days, it will surpass the $56 million gross of Wallace And Gromit: Curse Of The Were Rabbit to become the second highest grossing stop-motion animation picture, behind Chicken Run (which grossed $107 million). Of course, the big problem will come next weekend, when it loses most if not all of its 3D screens to The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.

The last major story is the epic, hilariously appropriate death plunge of New Line and Paramount's Friday the 13th reboot. It grossed $40 million last weekend. It did just $7.9 million this weekend, equaling a stunning 80% plunge. While it's only 6th on the all-time drop list, it's by far the biggest plunge for a movie that actually had anything approaching a decent opening weekend. Forget what I said about not making it to $100 million... this one won't make it to $75 million. We're talking about a movie that will do nearly 55-60% of its total gross over its first three days. Still, chalking up to the low budget and likely shelf life on DVD, this is still a big hit for New Line Cinemas. It certainly seems like New Line is quickly becoming the Tupac Shakur of film studios, finding its strongest success after its death.

Anyway, tune in next weekend (if time allows) for the um... much anticipated debut of Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chin Li (on the plus side, I hear the new game is pretty terrific). We'll also finally see the release of the much delayed (and allegedly much tinkered with) immigration drama, Crossing Over (co-starring Harrison Ford, in a 'sorry I turned town Traffic' supporting turn). Alas, expect Jonas Brothers to win the day. I'm expecting as large a showing as last year's Hannah Montana 3D concert, if not larger (after all, girls will see a movie just because they lust over the Jonases, while boys would not do the same for Hannah Montana).

Scott Mendelson

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