You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

With ‘Madea Family Funeral,’ Tyler Perry Ends Franchise on a High Note

Tyler Perry has spent over 15 years in heavy make-up and padding, doling out tough love as the title character of the “Madea” movies. With “A Madea Family Funeral,” the gun-toting grandmother is going out with a bang. The 11th and final installment in the long-running franchise beat box office expectations when it opened last weekend, generating a solid $27 million when it hit 2,442 North American theaters.

“Family Funeral” may not have racked up the best start in the “Madea” series — that distinction belongs to “Madea Goes to Jail” ($41 million) — but it ranks as the franchise’s second biggest debut in nearly a decade. It’s a rare feat for any franchise to keep cranking out films that are actually making money after so many installments. Tastes change, audiences move on, but Madea seems to have retained her hold on a devoted fanbase. To put the opening weekend of “A Madea Family Funeral” into perspective, it launched with just $1 million less than Fox’s “Alita: Battle Angel” ($28 million), a sci-fi epic that cost over $170 million to produce. Perry, who stars in, produces, and directs the low-cost “Madea” movies, typically makes his films for roughly $20 million.

“You have to put Madea in the pantheon of successful long-running franchises,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analysts with Comscore. “This character has resonated for over a decade and a half.”

Even without critical support (reviews for “Madea” are dismissive, at best), the series has become a dependable hit for Lionsgate, the studio that distributes most of Perry’s films. Since the partnership between Perry and Lionsgate began in 2005 with “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” the filmmaker has made 21 movies with the studio. Those films, including not just “Madea”  have generated over $1 billion in ticket sales, according to Comscore. But now that Perry announced his plans to retire Madea, that relationship might look a little different. Perry’s pact with Lionsgate has unofficially ended as Paramount Pictures now has a first-look deal with the creator. The rights for Madea still belong to Lionsgate, and the studio can hypothetically decide to churn out more installments. Likewise, Perry can still make movies with Lionsgate if he chooses.

Tyler Perry is an incomparable talent, and our door is always open to him,” a spokesperson for Lionsgate told Variety. “We look forward to doing more projects with him in the future.”

Perry has been a reliable moneymaker for the studio by doing what Hollywood has been slow to follow suit on — the mogul has cultivated a billion-dollar empire on movies that put the spotlight on diverse characters. Actors like Angela Bassett, Cicely Tyson, Taraji P. Henson, and Viola Davis all appeared in Perry’s movies during the early aughts of their careers. Inclusion has become a hot topic in Hollywood, but Perry doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for getting studios to realize that making more movies about people of color isn’t just a moral good. It’s good for business.

Even before the “Black Panthers,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Oceans 8s” of the world proved that women and people of color could have commercial appeal, Perry was harnessing the power of underrepresented audiences. It’s a group that continues to turn out for his films. African Americans accounted for 50% of “A Madea Family Funeral’s” opening weekend audience, while 61% of moviegoers were female. On average, 65% of crowds for “Madea” movies consist of black moviegoers.

“His vision speaks to audiences who don’t see themselves well represented on the big screen,” Dergarabedian said. “Perry was [encouraging diversity] years ago and has had a consistent level of success by speaking to audiences who enjoy his point of view.”

Perry also challenged studios to promote movies more efficiently at at a time when marketing costs can balloon to tens of millions of dollars. When Madea first hit the stage in the 1999 play “I Can Do Bad All by Myself,” Perry used grassroots marketing campaigns leaning heavily on outreach to the African American community to get the word out about his movies. It was a precursor to what today would be an effective social media campaign.

Perry’s departure from Madea and the Lionsgate family couldn’t come at a worse time for the studio. Lionsgate has been struggling in recent years, releasing one flop after another. The studio’s big-budget remake of “Robin Hood” was one of last year’s biggest misfires as the $100 million film ended its theatrical run with just $84 million globally. Before that, “Hunter Killer,” an action thriller starring Gerard Butler, stalled with a paltry $15 million worldwide. It carried a $40 million price tag.  One of Lionsgate’s few success stories of 2018 was “A Simple Favor,” a campy whodunit starring two female leads, Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. It grossed almost $100 million on a $20 million budget.

The studio is hoping a “Hellboy” reboot, a third entry in the “John Wick” franchise, and “Long Shot,” a comedy with Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, can help turn things around in 2019. Lionsgate’s first release of the year was “Cold Pursuit,” a vigilante drama that only landed on audience’s radars after its star, Liam Neeson, made controversial racially charged comments. That attention didn’t translate into ticket sales. “Cold Pursuit,” which cost $60 million to make, tapped out with $46 million globally.

With a slate like that, Lionsgate could definitely use a few more Tyler Perry movies.

More Film

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Marc Malkin The Big Ticket Podcast

    Variety, iHeartMedia Launch New Film Podcast 'The Big Ticket' With Marc Malkin

    Variety and iHeartMedia have announced the premiere of “The Big Ticket,” a new weekly film-focused podcast hosted by Marc Malkin, the magazine’s senior film awards and events & lifestyle editor. The podcast will feature sit-down interviews with Hollywood’s hottest stars and filmmakers talking movies, the business and more. New episodes will be released every Thursday [...]

  • 2019 Box Office Placeholder

    Can 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Lion King' and Other Summer Movies Rescue the Box Office?

    In the summer, as temperatures rise and schools go on break, Hollywood likes to stick to a well-worn formula: Pack the multiplexes with franchises, spinoffs, reboots and remakes. This coming season will be no different — with hopes that the pay off at the box office will help reverse the current turndown in ticket sales. [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby in Park

    Cameron Crowe on Putting 'the Most Colorful Life Ever,' David Crosby's, on Screen

    Cameron Crowe jokes that David Crosby is following his career path. The star’s frankness and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor has resulted in Rolling Stone magazine’s invitation to set up the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s next act as a rock Dear Abby of sorts with his new column: “Ask Croz.” “Isn’t that great?” says Crowe, the Oscar-winning [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content