Feature

Tyler Perry beats out Clooney and Wahlberg at box office

Actor-writer-director Tyler Perry

What happened
Actor-writer-director Tyler Perry’s latest movie Why Did I Get Married? topped the box office this past weekend, raking in $22 million and beating out George Clooney’s Michael Clayton and Mark Wahlberg’s We Own the Night. About 90% of the people who saw the film were African American, and more non-black moviegoers bought tickets for Why Did I Get Married? then for any other Perry film.

What the commentators said
Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Why Did I Get Married? said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Perry depicts “black Americans as people relating to other people—not as mere plot devices and not as characters defined solely by how they relate to the white world.” Black audiences clearly "anticipate” Perry’s movies and “rush out to see them as soon as they open,” which translates to big bucks.

It’s all about promotion, said Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun’s Critical Mass blog. “No one does a better job of self-promotion than Tyler Perry; E! Channel’s Talk Soup even ran a parody of the filmmaker-performer’s propensity for getting his name out before the box office results are in.” Warner Bros. “did a pitiful job" of promoting "its big-star vehicles” like Michael Clayton. If studios continue to “undervalue the power of print,” they “may keep losing out to the savvy likes of Tyler Perry.”

“How much money does a guy have to mint before he gets some respect around Hollywood?” said Rachel Abramowitz in the Los Angeles Times. There’s clearly a double standard here. A lot of Hollywood stars “get paid far more upfront than Perry,” and their “salaries would consume more than the entire budget of his oeuvre.” Studios have been reluctant to work with Perry in part because “his films have limited foreign appeal.” But look at the “adulation Hollywood showers on, let’s say, Adam Sandler, a mainstream yuppie comic whose foreign appeal is weak.”

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