"Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion," a comic drama in which writer-director Perry also stars in three roles, debuted as the weekend's No. 1 movie with $30.25 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It was a second gold mine for Lionsgate Films, which also released Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," the movie that opened as No. 1 with $21.9 million on the same weekend last year.
Lionsgate hopes to have a third Perry movie out over the same weekend next year, said Steve Rothenberg, the company's president of distribution.
"It's a time when we can really dominate the box office," Rothenberg said. "If we were out at Christmas, we'd be competing with the big holiday and Oscar films, but late February with Black History Month and less competition is a great time period for us."
This weekend's other new wide releases flopped. The Weinstein Co. animated tale "Doogal," a fairy-tale adventure with a voice cast that includes Whoopi Goldberg, Kylie Minogue and Jimmy Fallon, debuted at No. 8 with $3.6 million.
New Line's crime thriller "Running Scared," starring Paul Walker as a mobster scrambling to recover a gun used in the slaying of a cop, opened at No. 9 with $3.1 million.
Walker also stars in last weekend's No. 1 movie, Disney's dog tale "Eight Below," which slipped to second place with $15.7 million. "Eight Below" grossed $45.1 million in 10 days.
Though "Madea's Family Reunion" opened more strongly than "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," the overall weekend box office declined. The top 12 movies took in $99.8 million, down 4.4 percent from the same weekend last year.
Based on Perry's stage play, "Madea's Family Reunion" depicts a variety of domestic crises as a clan prepares for a reunion. Among the characters Perry plays is the heavyset, pistol-packing Grandma Madea, whom he also played in "Diary of a Mad Black Woman."
The film was shot for just $6 million.
Perry's stories about empowerment of women set among Madea's family have a built-in following among black audiences familiar with his plays and video versions of the tales. Black women 35 and older made up 52 percent of the movie's audience, according to Lionsgate.
"The themes Tyler Perry presents resonate very strongly with the black community," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "It reminds me of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.' It has elements of comedy and drama and community that just definitely works."
The South African film "Tsotsi," a nominee for best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards, opened strongly in limited release with $78,000 at six theaters, for a healthy $13,000 average.
By comparison, "Madea's Family Reunion" averaged $13,788 in 2,194 theaters, "Doogal" did $1,557 in 2,318 cinemas, and "Running Scared" averaged $1,909 in 1,611 theaters.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
- "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion," $30.25 million.
- "Eight Below," $15.7 million.
- "The Pink Panther," $11.3 million.
- "Date Movie," $9.2 million.
- "Curious George," $7 million.
- "Firewall," $6.3 million.
- "Final Destination 3," $5.35 million.
- "Doogal," $3.6 million.
- "Running Scared," $3.1 million.
- "Freedomland," $2.9 million.
By David Germain