Sunday, October 14, 2007

WHY DID I GET MARRIED OPENS AT #1 with 21.5 million

George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Mark Wahlberg, say Whats Up to Tyler Perry.
This weekend was expected to be a showdown between A-list stars in award-hopeful films.

Instead, they got their clocks cleaned by Tyler Perry and his comedy "Why Did I Get Married?", the latest of the writer/director/star's faith-based films to surprise critics and put Hollywood's top draws in their place.

Married earned $21.5 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates from the box office firm Nielsen EDI.

The haul more than doubled projections, kicking The Game Plan to No. 2 ($11.5 million) and burying the heavily hyped newcomers. The closest were Clooney's political thriller Michael Clayton and Wahlberg's crime drama We Own the Night, which battled for No. 3 with about $11 million each.

Though the Married debut surprised most analysts, the real question may be why. Perry's last film, last year's Madea's Family Reunion, opened even stronger, raking in $30 million.

"I think this is the last time it's going to surprise anyone that Tyler Perry makes big movies," says Tom Ortenberg of Lionsgate Films, which released Married. "But it has been fun confounding the experts."

Lionsgate worked particularly hard this time to reach beyond Perry's traditional fan base: black churchgoers.

For Married, Lionsgate doubled the number of word-of-mouth screenings and reached out to other religious groups.

"We want a crossover from African-American audiences to general audiences, and we're seeing that," Ortenberg says. "People are responding to movies about family, faith and redemption. That's a universal appeal Tyler is tapping into."

Perry has managed to tap into a tough fan base, one that rarely goes to movies. Married's faith-based audience, like that of The Passion of the Christ, did not show up in many studio tracking polls.

"It's a group that doesn't have a lot of movies made for them," says Paul Dergarabedian of Media By Numbers. "So if they find a filmmaker they trust — and they trust Tyler Perry — they're going to turn out."

The films stars Janet Jackson and R/B star Jill Scott , as well as former t.v star Malik Yoba from the 1990's t.v. show "New York Undercover"

Entertainment marketing expert Troy Julian Gipson predicts that Tyler Perry will eventually have mainstream white artists in his films with a message in the near future.

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