Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All by Myself" sold a studio-estimated $24 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, making it the seventh consecutive low-cost movie that the actor-writer-director has opened successfully for Lions Gate Entertainment since early 2006.
Focus Features' quirky animated film "9" got off to a healthy start, meanwhile, while thriller "Whiteout" and horror film "Sorority Row" both opened poorly.
Perry's movies consistently cost less than $20 million to produce, with a significant chunk going to the filmmaker himself. In a highly unreliable industry, they have provided a steady profit stream for the independent studio.
"Tyler Perry is one of the most eminently bankable stars in the business," said Lions Gate Vice Chairman Michael Burns.
Perry's films appeal primarily to black women, an audience group to whom not many movies in Hollywood are specifically targeted. "I Can Do Bad" followed that pattern, with 75% of ticket buyers female and 80% African American, according to exit polls.
After 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion," Perry has made two movies a year for the last three years. He has two more in the works for next year.
There are no signs of audience fatigue with Perry or his filmmaking formula, however. "I Can Do Bad" grossed 38% more than the writer-director's "The Family That Preys" on the same weekend last year. Moviegoers gave it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Although "Madea Goes to Jail" and "Madea's Family Reunion" remain his two biggest launches, this weekend's picture is Perry's most successful that didn't feature his popular "Madea" character in the title.
"The really nice thing about is that his franchise still continues to build after all of these films and all of this exposure," Burns said.
"9" marks Focus' second offbeat animated film this year, after February's "Coraline," and it had a solid if not stellar $10.9-million opening weekend. Combined with the $4.4 million that it collected Wednesday and Thursday after opening on 9/9/09 as a marketing ploy, the movie has grossed $15.3 million domestically, along with $2.7 million from Russia, the Ukraine and Estonia.
The picture cost only $24 million to produce, meaning that it should be a financial success for Universal Pictures' indie films unit if it holds up well in coming weeks. Given its PG-13 rating, however, "9" will rely to a larger extent than most animated pictures on young adults, who made up a sizable chunk of its initial audience. Twenty percent of moviegoers this weekend were ages 9 to 12, but holding the family audience will be challenging as Sony Pictures opens its PG-rated cartoon "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" on Friday.
"The Wednesday, Friday and Saturday business was consistently strong, and if word-of-mouth was bad you wouldn't have seen that," Focus distribution President Jack Foley said. "I think it's in for a fairly decent run over the next few weeks despite the competition."
Summit Entertainment's horror film "Sorority Row" sold $5.3 million worth of tickets over the weekend, while Dark Castle Entertainment's thriller "Whiteout," which starred Kate Beckinsale and was distributed by Warner Bros., grossed $5.1 million.
Both films were disappointments, although the news was worse for Dark Castle because "Whiteout" cost $35 million to produce. "Sorority Row" cost only $12.5 million.
"Inglourious Basterds" continues to be one of the season's biggest hits, coming in No. 3 on its third weekend with $6.5 million domestically, down a relatively modest 44%. Overseas, the movie grossed $9.4 million and brought its foreign total to $99 million, with several major territories including Italy, Spain, Brazil and Mexico left to go.
On a worldwide basis, the $70-million production from Weinstein Co. and Universal has sold more than $203 million worth of tickets.
Studios typically receive about half of box office receipts, meaning "Basterds" has already recouped its production costs and a sizable chunk of its marketing expenses before finishing its theatrical run and earning money from DVD or television.
Warner Bros.' horror movie "The Final Destination" collected $17.3 million from international markets this weekend, bringing its foreign total to $55.3 million and worldwide ticket sales after less than three weeks to an impressive $113.5 million. The movie cost $40 million to produce.
WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:
*--* Movie 3-day gross Percentage Total Days in change release (studio) (millions) from last (millions) weekend 1 Tyler Perry's I $24.0 NA $24.0 3 Can Do Bad All by Myself (Lionsgate) 2 9 (Focus Features) $10.9 NA $15.3 5 3 Inglourious $6.5 -44% $104.3 24 Basterds (Weinstein /Universal) 4 All About Steve $5.8 -48% $21.8 10 (Fox) 5 The Final $5.5 -56% $58.3 17 Destination (Warner Bros./New Line) 6 Sorority Row $5.3 NA $5.3 3 (Summit) 7 Whiteout (Dark $5.1 NA $5.1 3 Castle/Warner Bros.) 8 District 9 $3.6 -49% $108.5 31 (Sony/QED) 9 Julie & Julia $3.3 -38% $85.4 38 (Sony) 10 Gamer (Lionsgate) $3.2 -66% $16.1 10 *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $95.0 -5.7% $7.5 +7.6% *--*
*--* Sources: Times research and Hollywood.com Box-Office Los Angeles Times *--*