How Long Will Tyler Perry's Break From Movies Last?
This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Tyler Perry is putting his Madea wig into storage, but it will be back far sooner than most expect. On the heels of the poor performance of his latest directing effort, The Single Moms Club -- the March release has grossed only $15.9 million -- Perry revealed he is taking an indefinite break from the big screen to focus on his thriving TV business. "This is the first time in 10 years that I don't already have my next movie written or shot and ready to come out," Perry, 44, wrote March 20.
But a source close to Perry, who split with his longtime movie distributor Lionsgate in February, now says the filmmaker and his alter ego Madea will return to the multiplex, likely in a year or two and at a more leisurely pace of one film every two years. "It's not because Single Moms didn't perform," says the source. "With four TV shows, he literally doesn't have the bandwidth to make films right now."
Perry's TV soap The Haves and the Have Nots has become the top-performing scripted program on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network (Perry also is an equity partner in OWN). The net recently ordered 20 more episodes of the series, which will air 56 installments through 2015. And despite its failure at the box office, Single Moms has spawned a TV series for OWN that will debut in the fall.
Perry, who amassed a fortune from his rich Lionsgate pact (he topped Forbes' 2011 list of highest-paid men in entertainment at $130 million that year), might have become a victim of his savvy deal, which gave him upfront fees and a hefty chunk of profits -- estimated at 50 percent -- while also allowing ownership of the titles. As a result, another source says Lionsgate, which has released all of his films since 2005's Diary of a Mad Black Woman, was not making enough money to continue the relationship -- though the Perry insider says the decision to part was mutual.
During the past decade, Perry has built one of the most recognizable brands in film, generating one or two low-budget movies a year that each reliably have grossed about $50 million domestically. (Movies with Madea do markedly better than those without her.)
But when he returns to filmmaking, he could find replicating his Lionsgate deal difficult. Sony's Screen Gems would seem a natural fit given its success with urban comedies, but that label is spawning hits like 2012's Think Like a Man, which grossed $91.5 million (more than Perry's biggest movie, 2009's Madea Goes to Jail, which collected $90.5 million), on far more favorable terms. Still, the Perry movie empire would be appealing to cost-conscious studios -- and neither side is ruling out a Lionsgate reunion.