Why Tyler Perry Is Dominating at the Box Office While Others Struggle
Hollywood is having a tough time connecting to audiences, but the 'Madea' creator is thriving — and for good reason
The Hollywood box office is in trouble again.
After a disastrous summer highlighted by only a handful of moneymakers, September ticket sales were saved by the behemoth hit that was “It,” a new adaptation of the best-selling Stephen King novel.
With that picture now out of most theaters, October is having a rough go of it. This last weekend was especially bad for the industry and big studios, as two major pictures were almost completely ignored by audiences.
The $120 million “Geostorm,” an environmentalist disaster flick starring Gerard Butler, was dumped into theaters by Warner Bros., and it earned a measly $13.7 million. That’s not even enough dough to cover the film’s highly publicized reshoots, which reportedly cost $15 million.
"The Snowman," a murder mystery executive-produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Michael Fassbender, also rolled into theaters and earned just $3.3 million.
These two flops come on the heels of the underperforming "Blade Runner: 2019," which has a reported $150 million budget and it has earned just $74 million domestically in over two weeks. Then there's the Tom Cruise-headlined "American Made," which hasn't managed a domestic haul that reaches its $50 million budget after nearly a month in theaters.
Despite the flops, there have been a few box-office winners. "Happy Death Day," a horror movie from Blumhouse Productions, has been earning well, and Tyler Perry's "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" opened to $21.2 million last weekend, and it carries a production budget of only $25 million.
Perry's film is actually the worst-reviewed movie to top the box office this year. It sports a Rotten Tomatoes score of only 8 percent. It's typical for Perry. Despite his major box-office wins, he is openly mocked in the industry, and critics snub their noses at his work.
That doesn't stop him from connecting to America's heartland. His message-free, positive pictures connect with people, who continually make their way to the theater to see his work.
In the same way that Adam Sandler's films are critic-proof and he has his own corner of the sandbox to make movies in Hollywood, Perry is an industry all to himself.
His films, which mostly follow the outrageous and hilarious Madea, an older woman played by Perry himself, don't rely on special effects or political messages to sell to audiences. They're stories about people, the kind of folks you can imagine interacting with in real life.
Hollywood is learning a hard lesson right now. Scandals, overly political celebrities, and lame output from major studios are crumbling the foundation of the industry.
People are voting with their wallets, which is easier than ever to do because they have so many options for their entertainment. Independent productions have an easier distribution model than ever before thanks to video on-demand (VOD) platforms like Amazon and Netflix. These productions are also now attracting top talent. For example, the recently released "Brawl in Cell Block 99," a violent prison drama that skipped theaters, stars Vince Vaughn and Don Johnson, and it has earned near-universal praise from customer reviews on Amazon and other VOD platforms.
Netflix will also be releasing the $90 million "Bright" in December, a Will Smith-starring blockbuster that is looking to challenge the notion that only traditional studios can create big-budget franchises through expensive theater releases.
This weekend is looking to introduce more studio films not expected to do much business, while "Madea" will likely be enjoying a strong sophomore weekend. You can expect "Geostorm," "Snowman," and "Blade Runner" to essentially disappear. Reports have already been circulating that the politically charged and special effects-heavy "Geostorm" is expected to lose $100 million when all is said and done.
Tyler Perry may not be as celebrated as others in Hollywood, and critics may dismiss him, but people are becoming choosier than ever when it comes to entertainment. Perry makes movies with positive messages, recognizable characters, and themes related to faith and family. The rest of Hollywood should stop snubbing their noses for a second — and maybe take a few notes.