Audience wigs out over latest 'Madea'

Perry pic bows with $41 mil for Lionsgate

As prestige pics and statuettes hogged the limelight, Tyler Perry's urban comedy "Madea Goes to Jail" dominated the domestic boxoffice with an estimated $41.1 million bow that represented Lionsgate's biggest opening weekend.

"Friday the 13th" — the remake that Warner Bros. bowed so well a week earlier — absorbed an enormous 81% drop from its first Friday-Sunday grosses to register $7.8 million in sixth place during the latest session. The New Line-produced horror pic has rung up $55 million during its first 10 days.

Sony Screen Gems' youth comedy "Fired Up!" fetched just $6 million in ninth place in the session's only other wide opening. Yet aside from such occasional misfiring individual releases, it seems the industry boxoffice can do no wrong.

Collectively, the weekend's $142 million represented a 29% uptick from the same frame a year earlier, according to Nielsen. That makes for six of seven up weekends this year.

Year to date, 2009 at $1.45 billion is pacing ahead of last year by just 1% in a deceptively modest increase shaped by seasonal fluctuations in the boxoffice year.

Elsewhere during the weekend, Fox's Liam Neeson starrer "Taken" refused to shrink from the upper rankings. The action thriller grabbed second place during its fourth weekend with $11.4 million and a $95.2 million cume.

Disney's PG-13 comedy "Confessions of a Shopaholic" fell 53% in its second weekend to $7 million in seventh place, with a $27.7 million cume. Sony's political thriller "The International" tumbled 52% in its sophomore session to $4.5 million in 10th place, with a $17 million cume.

Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire" was again tops among films nominated for the best picture Oscar, improving 11% over its Friday-Sunday tally of a week earlier. Adding 610 theaters for a total of 2,244 during its 15th week, "Slumdog" rang up $8.1 million to finish fifth and boost its cume to $98 million.

The Weinstein Co. added 238 playdates for a total of 962 for the Kate Winslet starrer "The Reader" and grossed $2.8 million, bringing its 11-week cume to $23.2 million.

Among notable exclusive runs, IFC Films added one location for a total of six in New York and Los Angeles for its Italian-language mob film "Gomorrah" and grossed $66,756, or a solid $11,126 per site. "Gomorrah's" cume climbed to $211,046.

The outsized bow by "Madea" — considerably better than expected — surpassed the $33.6 million bow by former Lionsgate record-holder "Saw III" in October 2006. It also topped Perry's previous opening high of $30 million by 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion."

The multihyphenate's releases tend to do better when they feature the maternal character of Madea, and apparently those with her name in the title perform the best.

As usual, the PG-13 pic drew audiences composed largely of urban demos, with 72% of patrons black and 13% Hispanic. About 71% of its support came from females, and 65% of patrons were 25 and older.

"This monster opening demonstrates that Tyler remains one of the biggest stars in Hollywood," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

"Fired Up!" skewed 61% female, with 61% of patrons under 18. Sony execs stressed that production costs were modest at less than $20 million. "We'll be OK," distribution president Rory Bruer said.

Two films are set for wide release this weekend: Disney's "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert" and Fox's martial-arts actioner "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li." (partialdiff)
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