It was only a year ago that box office observers were shocked by the first place performance of Tyler Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." That film's follow-up, "Madea's Family Reunion," wasn't able to sneak up on anybody. As expected, "Madea" crushed the competition, taking in an estimated $30.25 million for the weekend ending Sunday, Feb. 26.
Playing in 2194 locations, "Madea's Family Reunion" took in $13,788 per screen. That robust average was actually lower than the $14,771 that "Diary" did last February when it opened on only 1483 screens and still yielded $21.9 million, serving notice to the mainstream media what African-American audiences have known for many years -- Tyler Perry is a massive star.
Although it was hidden from critics to prevent negative reviews, the Lionsgate release, which also stars Blair Underwood and Lynn Whitfield, nearly doubled up the second frame last week's box office champ "Eight Below." The Disney animal adventure lost only 22 percent of its audience and still took in $15.72 million, or $5,118 per screen, bringing its total to a solid $45-plus million. Also showing impressive legs was Steve Martin's "The Pink Panther," dropping a reasonable 32 percent to $11.3 million for a cumulative domestic take of $61 million and counting.
Even with those solid performers, though, the Top 12 films at the box office did only $99.8 million, off by 4.4 percent from the same weekend last year and down by 9.81 percent from last weekend's Presidents Day frame.
It didn't help that beyond the blockbuster opening for "Madea," the weekend's other debuts were stiffs. The Weinstein Co. shielded the animated comedy "Doogal" from critics in the hopes of yielding a "Hoodwinked"-sized opening, but could only get to No. 8 with $3.61 million on 2318 screens for a DOA $1,557 per screen haul. In addition, there's evidence that the performance of "Eight Below" may possibly have a little more to do with the cute doggies than with leading man Paul Walker. The star's dark thriller "Running Scared" finished ninth for the weekend with $3.08 million. Maybe viewers were convinced they'd already seen the movie back in 1986 when it starred Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.
The weekend's Top 12 also included "Date Movie" ($9.22 million), "Curious George" ($7 million), "Firewall" ($6.28 million) and "Final Destination 3" ($5.35 million).
Just one weekend before an expected Oscar coronation, "Brokeback Mountain" fell out of the Top 12 with a gross of $2.33 million. Ang Lee's drama has now passed $75 million total.
The weekend's major new limited release was the Oscar nominated "Tsotsi." Playing in only six theaters, the South African film did $78,000.
Next weekend's eclectic slate of new releases includes "16 Blocks," "Dave Chapelle's Block Party," "Aquamarine" and "Ultraviolet."
All estimates come courtesy of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks daily box office receipts.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times