"Madea Goes to Jail" locks up No. 1 at box office

Sun Feb 22, 2009 2:34pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Prolific filmmaker Tyler Perry, whose comedies are a big hit with black women, scored the biggest opening of his career on Sunday as "Madea Goes to Jail" sold $41.1 million worth of tickets at the weekend box office in North America.

The film -- based on the actor-director-producer's most successful play -- arrested his usual fan base but also saw a huge boost among Hispanics and younger moviegoers, said its distributor Lionsgate. Perry remains a cult item among whites.

Perry, 39, dons drag to play Madea, a tough-talking, pistol-packing granny who is featured in many of his films and plays. His previous best opening was for his second film, "Madea's Family Reunion," which started with $30 million in 2006. Four of Perry's seven films have made their debut at No. 1.

Additionally, "Madea Goes to Jail" ranks as the best opening for any Lionsgate release -- surpassing the $33.6 million debut for "Saw III" -- and as the fifth-biggest bow for any film in February, said the Lions Gate Entertainment Corp unit.

Women accounted for 71 percent of the audience and blacks 72 percent -- typical for Perry releases. But the percentage of patrons aged under 25 doubled to 35 percent from the turnout last September for his previous film "The Family That Preys." The Hispanic contribution jumped to 13 percent from 5 percent, while the white audience was steady at 6 percent.


There was little change in the upper box office rankings amid a dearth of new releases and little public support for the films competing at the Academy Awards later on Sunday.

The Liam Neeson kidnap thriller "Taken," a former chart-topper, rebounded one place to No. 2 with $11.4 million in its fourth weekend. The total for the 20th Century Fox release rose to $95.1 million.

Focus Features' stop-motion cartoon "Coraline" jumped two to No. 3 with $11 million in its third week, taking its total to $53.4 million. The Warner Bros. romantic comedy "He's Just Not That Into You," the box office leader two weeks ago, fell two spots to No. 4 with $8.5 million while pushing its total to $70.1 million.   Continued...

<p>Filmmaker Tyler Perry speaks after receiving the award for media at the BET Honors Awards in Washington, January 17, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts</p>