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The Madea Empire

March 10, 2006

by Pamela Cole, Editor-in-Chief

Tyler Perry is telling the world that Atlanta is a great place for filmmakers. Perry is shooting his third film here this summer and is rumored to have purchased an entire block in the industrial corridor of Northside Drive to build his own studio and soundstage. With the success of two films about a black matriarch named “Madea” (a southern contraction for “mother dear”), the man is a blank check. Did I mention his book coming out in April (“Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life”), or his television sitcom also set to shoot in Atlanta?

Perry is as much business man as moviemaker, as the millions he has amassed in his young 35 years as playwright, actor, and director attest. And he’s taking full advantage of the new Georgia film tax incentives by keeping his empire in Georgia (a bonus for Perry who is known to eschew almost everything about Hollywood).

In the first two weeks of its opening, Madea’s Family Reunion made more money than any other film playing in America ($48.1 million in 10 days, which is more than four of the five films nominated for Academy Award Best Picture made in their entire release). Granted, Madea opened in the weakest spot in the schedule (Oscar week) but still, audiences chose to watch a handsome six-foot-five African American man dress up like an older overweight black woman, instead of a film vying for Oscar. (Didn’t I see Martin Lawrence use this same gimmick in two Big Momma movies, as well as Eddie Murphy in two Nutty Professor films?)

Simply put, there are two types of movies: those that make us think and those that distract us from thinking. And both types are vitally important to our industry and our psyche. Not surprisingly, the lower-grossing Academy-caliber films made us think: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Crash, and Munich. I haven’t seen Madea, but it must be a very entertaining film—$48.1 million in 10 days says something. But Oscar quality? Probably not. Which in no way diminishes the value of Madea’s Family Reunion. Using the real measuring stick of the business (box office receipts), Madea is a huge success. Especially for those in the Georgia filmmaking industry.



Past Editorials:

Coretta Scott King
Breaking Ground
Happy Holidays
Current TV
Virgin Entry