Madea Keeps Box Office in Top Form
By John Hamann
February 22, 2009
Another weekend in 2009, another amazing weekend at the box office. After the biggest weekend ever for February fell in our laps last weekend, some thought this might be more of a downtime at theaters, as Oscar dominates cinemas on Sunday night. Bring on Madea, and we know we are going to have at least one $20 million plus opener. Openers this weekend included the sure-fire hit Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail, and a lesser opener in Fired Up, the new cheerleader comedy from Screen Gems. Other films keeping the box office burning bright this weekend are Coraline, the unexpected animated winner from Focus Features, Taken, Liam Neeson's surprise action flick, and of course, Slumdog Millionaire, the current favorite for a Best Picture win.
Our number one film of the weekend is Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail, which we knew was going to happen. What we didn't know was that Madea Goes To Jail would become Tyler Perry's biggest movie ever - eclipsing the $30 million open of Madea's Family Reunion, back in 2006. Madea Goes to Jail didn't just eclipse Family Reunion, it hammered it, earning a surprise $41.2 million over three days. Surprisingly, this Tyler Perry effort broke his own record and did it on fewer screens than Family Reunion, as his 2006 film opened on 2,194 screens, compared to 2,032 for Madea Goes To Jail. It had a stellar venue average of $20,236, by far the best in the top ten. Usually, we expect Perry to open films within the high teen millions to low twenty millions, unless the word Madea is in the title. Previously, Madea's Family Reunion was tops at $30 million, while his second biggest opener was Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which also starred Madea, but opened to $21.9 million). Madea Goes to Jail makes the smart move of putting Madea in the title, and it obviously paid off.
Lionsgate is the distributor behind the Madea films and with this debut, they now have their biggest opening ever, beating Saw III and its $33 million start in October of 2006. For Tyler Perry, his production company is growing into quite a machine, as the man behind Madea is becoming bigger than the character. He's had a bestselling book, two successful TV shows, and has now had six successful theatrical releases with a combined domestic gross of over $250 million. His average opening weekend is in the $25 million range; however, his biggest weaknesses are always the same - crossover appeal and quality. Tyler Perry films are no longer screened for critics prior to opening, and his average second weekend drop is 54.3%. Perry doesn't seem to seek crossover appeal, which may be the reason his films are so successful. At this point, Madea Goes to Jail is his most successful so far, so what he's doing is certainly working.
Taken continues to burn up the box office this weekend, as it moves from third place last weekend to second place this frame. Following a holiday, holdovers usually crash, and Taken is no exception. The Liam Neeson actioner took in another $11.4 million this weekend - its fourth above $10 million - but it does drop 40% in the process, its highest drop so far. Taken has now had percentage drops of 17% and 8% over the three-day portion of the last frame, along with this weekend's bigger drop. The 20th Century Fox flick now has a total of $95.2 million and will cross the $100 million mark in the next frame, something few thought would happen. I'm now looking for Taken to finish somewhere between $130 million and $140 million, as the drop should be low again next weekend. It's also made $70 million overseas, so this is a big, well-timed hit for the folks at Fox.