By Shawn Robbins
December 13's A Madea Christmas will mark media mogul Tyler Perry's sixth feature film starring his titular character, and the overall fifteenth flick with his name attached to the title since 2005's original Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Perry has crafted himself something of a personal empire over the last decade, and the holiday box office is poised to see the latest fruits of his work.
Obviously, Perry's shtick has never been for everyone. But lost behind that fact is the reality that he's become one of the most reliable names in the movie business. Outside of the occasional misfire (ahem, Alex Cross), Perry has built a reputation for going after a specific audience and satisfying that crowd with remarkable consistency. His films have averaged $22 million on opening weekend and nearly $50 million by the end of their runs. Virtually two out of every three of his movies have debuted to more than $20 million.
The crowning achievement (thus far) has been 2009's Madea Goes to Jail. It banked a stellar $41 million debut onward to $90.5 million in early 2009. In June/July 2012, his second most successful Madea pic (Madea's Witness Protection) earned $65.7 million as the first of his movies to open inside the summer calendar.
Now, Perry ventures into the holiday season for the first time, and early buzz indicates that A Madea Christmas is reaching out to the broadest extents of his audience base. Twitter activity is 115 percent higher than Madea's Witness Protection and 266 percent stronger than 2011's Madea's Big Happy Family at the same points before release. For a comparison outside the Perry universe, the latest Madea entry is posting 9 percent more discussion than The Best Man Holiday did the week before its strong $30.1 million opening last month.
Over on Flixster, A Madea Christmas carries an 88 percent anticipation score among more than 21,000 users. That former statistic may not seem healthy to the naked eye, but it's 3 percent higher than Witness Protection and generated from more than 2.5 times as many voters. Madea's holiday entry even boasts twice as many votes as The Best Man Holiday.
Online metrics can often be inflated, but that seems unlikely in this case given that Perry's films have never been up the alley of the online crowd.
Perry is making one of the smartest decisions of his successful career by setting and releasing the boisterous matriarch's latest story during Christmas. That's the type of synergy that his fan base--particularly in the southern United States, where Perry is based out of Atlanta--is poised to show up for, and it should propel A Madea Christmas past the average business of his previous movies. The pic could end up topping $30 million on opening weekend, and at this point, those $40 million opening and/or $91 million total benchmarks cannot be taken off the table. With that said, holiday releases tend to be more about the legs than the opening, and with nearly two full weeks before Christmas, Madea is positioned with her best release date yet.
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The A Madea Christmas trailer: