This weekend, writer/director/producer Tyler Perry quietly made history. The release of his latest film, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor put the prolific auteur in the company of some Hollywood heavyweights.
Perry’s latest gives him nine movies that he’s directed that have grossed at least $20 million, tying him with Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. While Perry is never mentioned in the same breath (except here) with such celebrated directors, he has quietly become a MAJOR player despite critics routinely panning his work and him being dismissed as cinematic lightweight.
Perry, who has just directed his 13th film, has seen all but Daddy’s Little Girls, The Family That Preys and Good Deeds as the only films NOT to open at the magical $20 million mark. To put this achievement into perspective, Perry who many people routinely dismiss has had more $20 million openings than John Singleton (3), Antoine Fuqua (2) and Spike Lee (1) combined. Perry’s movies have grossed only over $600 million, domestically but that’s far more than any of his contemporaries.
While I may be critical of Perry’s storytelling style and his Madea character, I admire his business acumen and his ability to create a successful blueprint that has allowed him to not only to transition from the stage to motion pictures but the ability to consistently get his films made and distributed. I have often wondered why Perry doesn’t use his platform to produce films for others (incidentally, he is moving forward on that suggestion with his initial effort, The Peeples, opening in May) or try to give his audience something different from his norm. Apparently, his audience is comfortable with what they get from Perry and the box-office indicates that there is no need for him to change his formula for success.
I have been on record criticizing Perry’s work, as well as his lack of coherent storytelling elements and his buffoonish Madea’s character. At the end of the day, while I may have problems with Perry as a director, I admire him as a businessman. Whether we look at his landmark deal with TBS that spawned three series, House of Payne, Meet the Browns and For Better or Worse or his deal with Lionsgate that reportedly nets him 80 percent ownership of his films or even the ability to create his own studios in Atlanta, Perry is a entertainment mogul.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Perry and I didn’t get the opportunity to ask him ONE question. In hindsight, it probably was for the best since I detested For Colored Girls, the film that I was there to talk with him about. The interesting thing about the experience was not want I learned from Perry but about him.
All interview long, each of the ladies from the cast talked about the special treatment they all received from Perry each day, whether there were fresh flowers in their dressing rooms to his ability to make them all feel like Queens. They all spoke about the pride they felt driving through Perry’s studio gate and working on his sound-stages named after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel.
We, in the media, are trained to look for the negative in entertainers as we build them up only to tear them down. Perry’s story is the opposite as he lived out of his car before finding success as a playwright and later bringing that same loyal audience to his television and film projects. Spielberg and Zemeckis have each been in the game since the 1970’s, Perry the novice, has only been directing since 2006. He has at least two more movies in the pipelines that should continue Perry’s dominance. Don’t look now, but Perry may get the last laugh over all of his critics and haters, including this one!