As disturbing as it is to say it, America seems to have a thing for black male comedians dressed up as old women. Up to now the movie with the highest weekend opening of 2006 had been Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House 2 with $27 million. In something of an artistic "one-up", Tyler Perry released his play-turned-DVD-turned-feature project Madea's Family Reunion and it brought down Big Momma's House with a whopping $30 million. Granted, we're only two months into the year but this doesn't bode well.
Madea not only took home the top prize it did twice as well as the number two Eight Below, a rare feat. It also did 50% better than Tyler's other feature release Diary of Mad Black Woman which was released this same weekend last year. Most movie studios would give their Vice President of Marketing's left kidney for a franchise where a second release does so much better than he first. You can expect to see a lot more of Madea in the future, no matter how bad the critics pan it (Family Reunion scored a limp 40% at Rotten Tomatoes).
This weekend also seemed to prove that Paul Walker isn't nearly as big a draw as his animal co-stars. Last Week Eight Below, which starred Walker and eight adorable sled dogs, was the number one film in the nation. This week Walker's latest release, crime drama Running Scared opened at number 9 with a pathetic $3 million. It has the distinguished honor of being the lowest opening top ten of 2006 thus far. Talk about going from the top to bottom in one quick step. Next time Paul, stick with the fluffy animals.
The other major release this weekend, Doogal also performed poorly. In eighth place it garnered a miserable $5 million. Despite being an animated film with an all star voice cast, it was under marketed and severly thrashed by critics who weren't even allowed any screenings of the film until it opened in theaters.
With February coming to a close the Box Office is doing remarkably well considering last year's deflation. Gross sales of 2006 are a $1.38 billion compared to $1.35 billion this time last year and $1.26 billion in 2004. While that's good news, things are still beginning to slow down thanks in part to February's rash of remakes and sequels. March holds some promising releases and will be the Box Office's chance to show that its comeback may be here to stay.
Next weekend is a mixed bag of releases. On the hopeful side is Bruce Willis and Mos Def's 16 Blocks directed by Richard Donner. Since wrapping up his Lethal Weapon franchise in 1998, Donner's only other directorial effort has been the lackluster Timeline. This could be a chance for him to show he's still got it.
If Bruce and Mos running around beating people up to save their lives doesn't do it for you, perhaps Milla Jovovich doing the same might. She's traded in her zombie slaying ways for jet black hair and a sword in Kurt Wimmer's UltraViolet which also comes out next week.
Dave Chappelle releases the a Block Party DVD of his sketch comedy onto the big screen in wide next weekend along with the should-have-gone-straight-to-video Aquamarine. Neither has much of a chance against the action power houses but you never know. Nobody was expecting Madea to do so well or Walker to do so poorly.