Box Office Guru Wrapup: Tyler Perry Does Good All By Himself

Plus, the survivors of Whiteout and the girls of Sorority Row get slaughtered.

This weekend Tyler Perry ruled the charts once again as fans flocked to North American multiplexes for his latest film I Can Do Bad All By Myself which gave the filmmaker his fifth number one hit of the last five years - the most for any director. Opening to solid results in second place was the animated sci-fi actioner 9. But after a string of violent R-rated films in recent weeks, audiences stayed away from two competing thrillers which foolishly opened on the same day - the college slasher pic Sorority Row and the Antarctica-set murder mystery Whiteout. Both flops debuted outside the top five with averages of under $2,000. Overall, the box office dipped from a year ago with the Top 20 sliding 7% from the same weekend in 2008.

Scoring the seventh highest September opening ever, I Can Do Bad All By Myself easily landed in first place this weekend grossing an estimated $24M more than doubling its closest competitor. The PG-13 film averaged a sensational $10,656 from 2,255 locations. It was Perry's widest bow to date slightly edging out the 2,000-2,200 theaters his films usually are released in by Lionsgate.

The Atlanta-based media mogul once again proved how reliable he is at the box office with his eighth film in the last five years and fifth number one opener overall. That's more top spot bows than any other director during the last half-decade and more across this entire decade than directors such as Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, and Steven Soderbergh who have had four a piece including numerous expensive tentpoles. Perry's previous number ones include Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea's Family Reunion, Why Did I Get Married?, and Madea Goes to Jail. All distributed by Lionsgate and none costing too much to produce, his previous seven films have grossed a combined $369.8M averaging $52.8M each.

Myself stars the Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson as a selfish woman who learns to open up after taking custody of three children. Like many of Perry's films, it was adapted from his play and connected with his core audience of African American women and couples. It was his third best opening ever after the two Madea flicks and proved that his fan base still has a healthy appetite for his unique brand of entertainment. Though in a supporting role, the Madea character was a key part of the marketing materials given its strong drawing power. The early fall release also followed a summer movie season that saw hardly any major Hollywood films with a significant number of black actors so pent-up demand helped.

Winning over sci-fi fans was the stylish animated film 9 which opened to an estimated $10.9M over the weekend and $15.3M in the five days since its Wednesday launch. Produced by Tim Burton, the Focus release averaged a healthy $6,536 from only 1,661 locations over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The PG-13 tale of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world opened midweek on 9/9/09 in a gimmick to spark interest with audiences. Fox used a similar technique three years ago when it launched the remake of the devilish thriller The Omen which had a rare Tuesday release on 6/6/06.

Quentin Tarantino scored the second $100M blockbuster of his career this weekend with The Weinstein Co./Universal's Inglourious Basterds which dropped 44% to an estimated $6.5M boosting the domestic cume to $104.3M. The war drama will surpass the $107.9M of the director's 1994 hit Pulp Fiction by the end of the week, although it is not likely to end up selling more tickets. For Brad Pitt, it was his ninth career blockbuster to reach nine digits. Fox's stalker comedy All About Steve fell 48% to an estimated $5.8M in its second weekend giving the Sandra Bullock pic $21.8M in ten days. A $35M final seems likely.

Falling 56% to an estimated $5.5M in its third weekend was the 3D horror pic The Final Destination which has now taken in $58.3M in 17 days. The latest installment in the horror franchise is now the top-grossing film in the series having surpassed the $54.1M of 2006's Final Destination 3. The first chapter with its $53.3M gross in 2000 still is tops in admissions having sold about 10 million tickets compared to under 8 million sold by the new 3D flick which benefits from higher prices. But overseas, the new Destination has been faring well taking in an estimated $17.3M this weekend from 28 territories to lift the international tally to $55.3M and the global gross to $113.6M.

Moviegoers were unimpressed by the weekend's two new thrillers which opened in sixth and seventh with similar results. Summit's horror entry Sorority Row bowed to an estimated $5.3M from 2,665 locations for a weak $1,977 average. The R-rated slasher flick made a play for the under-25 set but young adults held onto their dollars. Warner Bros. countered with Kate Beckinsale's murder thriller Whiteout which opened with an estimated $5.1M from 2,745 sites (the most of any new film this weekend) for a dismal $1,858 average. Reviews were horrendous.

Hollywood programmed two competing scary movies against each other a few weeks ago when The Final Destination debuted opposite Halloween II. But each was a brand-name horror sequel so audiences came out and spent a combined $43.8M on the opening weekend. Sorority Row and Whiteout were both new and untested entities and faced stiffer competition resulting in a disastrous $10.4M in combined ticket sales. But audiences have not seen the last in this wave of fright films. Still to come this fall are Jennifer's Body on Friday, Pandorum a week later plus Zombieland, Night of the Demons, The Stepfather, and Saw VI throughout the Halloween month. Some may get slaughtered at the box office.

Sony followed with two hits that could not be more different. The cat food-eating aliens of District 9 dropped 49% to an estimated $3.6M while Meryl Streep's gourmet cuisine in Julie & Julia cooked up an estimated $3.3M, off 38%. Totals are $108.5M and $85.4M, respectively. Rounding out the top ten was the Gerard Butler actioner Gamer with an estimated $3.1M crumbling 66% from its opening. With $16.1M in ten days, a final take of $20-22M seems likely for Lionsgate.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $73.1M which was down 11% from last year when Burn After Reading opened in the top spot with $19.1M; but up 23% from 2007 when The Brave One debuted at number one with $13.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru

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