Tyler Perry’s ‘Madea’ Scares Off ‘Jack Reacher’ at Domestic Box Office


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From left, Cassi Davis, Tyler Perry and Patrice Lovely in “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween.”

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Eli Joshua/Lionsgate

LOS ANGELES — The drag queen Madea and her posse of goofy grannies unexpectedly mopped the floor with Tom Cruise at the weekend box office.

Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween,” the seventh installment in a series that Hollywood had essentially left for dead three years ago, following the weak debut of Madea’s sixth adventure, took in an estimated $27.6 million — or about 60 percent more than most analysts had predicted before its release. The film, from Lionsgate, cost $20 million to make; the studio spent a modest $26 million on marketing.

“Tyler’s continued success on television has only made him more of a force,” Tim Palen, Lionsgate’s chief brand officer, said by phone on Sunday morning, referring to a few series Mr. Perry has recently introduced on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Mr. Perry, who directed, wrote and stars in “A Madea Halloween,” was expected to battle Mr. Cruise for the weekend’s No. 1 spot, but it ended up being no contest at all. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” with Mr. Cruise in the title role, sold about $23 million in tickets, according to comScore, which compiles ticketing data. Paramount and its financing partners spent roughly $60 million to make “Never Go Back” (not including tens of millions in marketing costs). The film was primarily designed with the overseas box office in mind.

The domestic results for the two films — combined with a lackluster debut for the horror sequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil” — underscore what executives across the movie business have been saying all year: Americans will only turn out in big numbers for sequels that seem to have compelling creative reasons for existing. Sequels to movies that were not must-see attractions (among target audiences) the first time around? Not so much.

“Ouija: Origin of Evil,” a Universal release of a Blumhouse production, received strong reviews and only cost $9 million to make. But it only collected $14.1 million, about 30 percent less than its series predecessor managed over its first three days in 2014. The takeaway: Not enough people were crying out for more “Ouija.”

More than ever, ticket buyers can size up a movie as not worth their time and money from a mile away. That is what happened to “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” a poorly reviewed comedy starring Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher that cost 20th Century Fox about $40 million to make and collected a disastrous $5.6 million. (It was a hard weekend for Fox in other ways. Tim Miller, who was expected to direct “Deadpool 2,” left the project following disagreements with its star, Ryan Reynolds.)

Paramount said in a statement that it was “very happy” with the results for “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” in part because the sequel collected 51 percent more ticket revenue over its opening weekend than the first “Jack Reacher” did in 2012.

But the weekend belonged to Mr. Perry and Lionsgate, which backed “A Madea Halloween” with a clever marketing campaign — poster tagline: “Witch, please” — that benefited from viral video. An appearance by Mr. Perry as the politically incorrect Madea on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” was viewed more than 73 million times on Facebook alone. “A Madea Halloween” also featured several YouTube stars, who appeared to turn out an audience of younger women, Mr. Palen said.

Lionsgate said African-American ticket buyers made up 60 percent of the weekend audience for “A Madea Halloween.” The strong response was especially notable given the “Madea” franchise’s recent trajectory. “Madea Goes to Jail” arrived to $41 million in ticket sales 2009, but “Madea’s Big Happy Family” dropped to $25 million in opening-weekend revenue two years later. By 2013, “A Madea Christmas” managed just $16 million over its first three days.

Lionsgate’s other weekend release, the art film “American Pastoral,” which marked Ewan McGregor’s directing debut, was dead on arrival, taking in $151,000 at 50 locations. For the weekend, the top art house draw was Barry Jenkins’s euphorically reviewed “Moonlight” (A24), which collected an eye-popping $413,175 from just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

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