News for 3/7/2005

The following article appeared in the March 11, 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine

The following article appeared in the February 28, 2005 issue of Jet Magazine

Man behind 'Black Woman' shoots for 'universal story' (Registration required)
'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' resonates with audiences (Registration required)
'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' reveals Tyler Perry

News for 3/2/2005

'Black Woman' on Verge of Crossover at Box Office

By Nicole Sperling

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When actor-writer Tyler Perry struck a deal with a top executive at Lions Gate Films early last year to produce and distribute his movie "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," they both agreed it would open huge and all of Hollywood would wonder where Perry had come from and how this little indie film could make such a splash.

Hollywood has responded in just that fashion, with the movie surprising everyone last weekend by opening at No. 1 with ticket sales of $22 million.

But Lions Gate production president Mike Paseornek is no soothsayer. He was paying attention to the growing buzz surrounding Perry, who is as much of an entrepreneur as he is an auteur. During the past 13 years, Perry has developed a loyal following among blacks nationwide with his one-man-band stage productions and DVD sales.

Now Lions Gate and Perry hope the No. 1 slot and a slew of publicity events, including Perry's scheduled appearance Friday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will help expose the romantic comedy to a crossover audience. Lions Gate will expand "Woman" this weekend by several hundred theaters from its current 1,483 -- less than half of the most of the movies in the top-10.

"It's a real testament to the management here, including (CEO) Jon Feltheimer, who supported and greenlit a movie with a guy they never heard of for an underserved audience," said Paseornek. "We believed in Tyler, and we believed in the people who we spoke to who knew all about him."

Lions Gate's confidence in Perry stretches beyond "Woman." The studio announced Friday that it has greenlighted a second Perry film, "Madea's Family Reunion," to be released in February. This time around, Lions Gate will finance the entire production, said to be bigger budgeted than "Woman." (For the first film, Perry contributed $2.5 million of his own financing to the $5.5 million production.)

All of Perry's success did not make the once-homeless New Orleans native an obvious sell. Perry's agent Charles King from William Morris Agency had taken the Perry package, including a tape of the play "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," and a script for the film to two other studios before reaching Lions Gate.

"I was done by the time Lions Gate came along," Perry said. "I was frustrated with the studios. I was getting notes. I was being told that black people that go to church don't go to the movies. But Lions Gate stepped up, they saw my vision and I became No. 1 because of their support."

The studio's support included an artfully timed marketing campaign, at first largely driven by Perry's loyal base. The studio began with a teaser trailer that ran in September with Lions Gate's "The Cookout." The marketing team also handed Perry a copy of the trailer he promoted religiously after each stage play, reaching on average 30,000 people a week.

In January, the campaign kicked into high gear, tying promotional materials to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then moving into February with Black History Month and Valentine's Day. According to Lions Gate president of worldwide marketing John Hegeman, the company used the other black romantic comedy in the marketplace, "Hitch," for support.

"The bottom line is six months ago we knew we wanted to open at No. 1 and we wanted to gross between $15 (million)-20 million," Hegeman said. "We knew 'Hitch' was coming before us, and we knew the core audience would have already seen it, so we made a short trailer to debut ahead of 'Hitch.' A bunch of other films were trying to get onto "Hitch," so the only way was to make it short to make it easy for exhibition to add."

Other promotional efforts included two SUVs touring both coasts plastered with Perry's face and the rest of the "Woman" cast and promotions on radio stations and retail stores. The company also orchestrated a big online push with Perry's fan base and online ticket agencies. E-mail blasts went out whenever new theaters came aboard, encouraging advance group ticket sales with faith-based groups and nonreligious organizations. The online push proved a big help, with group ticket sales making up a significant component of the gross.

Perry is gratified by the film's opening-weekend success, but now his sights are set on broadening its audience with what he firmly believes is a comedy with universal appeal.

"African-American people are so many kinds of people, different classes and different levels. 'Diary' crosses all of those," Perry said. "I'm telling a universal story; it crosses all generations, crosses all races. Once people find it, they'll latch on and appreciate it."

'Mad Black Woman' Creator in Home Video Deal

By Brett Sporich

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Days after the surprisingly strong No. 1 box office bow of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," the film's producer on Tuesday closed a home video distribution deal with its distributor Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

The agreement calls for Lions Gate to market and distribute seven of Tyler Perry's plays. "Madea's Class Reunion," "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," "Madea's Family Reunion," "Meet the Browns," "Madea Goes to Jail" and two additional plays yet to be announced will be released in conjunction with the summer home video release of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," which Perry produced, starred in and wrote.

Although Perry has been selling DVDs of these plays online, Lions Gate executives believe that Perry's work can grow beyond his core black audience -- the same audience that bought $22 million worth of tickets for his film last weekend.

"We believe that the DVD releases of these seven plays will complement our feature films in bringing Tyler Perry's humor, faith, compassion and popularity to a greatly expanded national audience, building a remarkable new franchise in the process," Lions Gate Entertainment president Steve Beeks said.

While Perry expressed confidence that his comedies would be embraced by mainstream America, he added that it was rampant disc piracy that drove him toward seeking a home video distribution deal.

"I am deathly afraid of big studios," Perry said. "But Lions Gate had an intimacy about it, and the (DVD) piracy issue has reached a point were I can no longer distribute on my own."

Perry said he has received several offers from major Hollywood studios to distribute his plays on video but has turned them all down. "Most of the studio offers were so offensive that I didn't even entertain them," Perry said.

News for 3/1/2005

'Mad Black Woman' Returns for 'Reunion'

LOS ANGELES ( - Madea, the gun-toting, no-nonsense grandma from "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," is back.

Writer/actor Tyler Perry, who cross-dresses to play the role, will make his directorial debut in his "Madea's Family Reunion" with Lions Gate Films. The deal was announced on Friday, when "Diary" opened in theaters and before it won the top spot at the weekend box office with $22.7 million in ticket sales.

"Making 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' with Lions Gate Films has been a terrific experience, and I could not be more thrilled to embark on the film adaptation of 'Madea's Family Reunion' with them," says Perry.

Perry, 35, has written a number of wildly popular plays revolving around Mabel "Madea" Simmons. For "Reunion," he will direct, write, produce and play the title role in the film.

"Tyler Perry is an incredibly funny, multi-talented artist whose plays, and now films, have developed a hugely devoted following across the country," adds Mike Paseornek, President of Production, Lions Gate Films. "He has crafted an unforgettable, hilarious character in Madea."

"Reunion" is scheduled for a February 2006 release.