“Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween”

I just can’t lie. I was absolutely dying to find out how “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” was going to do this weekend. It’s been over two years since his last feature film – “The Single Moms Club,” which tanked, with just barely $16 million at the box office; a long way from his career high of the over $90 million that 2009’s “Madea Goes to Jail” grossed. And that was during the period when, for better or worse (mainly worse), Perry was the “face” of black cinema, releasing, on average, two films a year.

And many who were sadly disappointed by the poor box office turnout of “The Birth of Nation” sarcastically complained that black audiences would turn out in droves to see “Boo!”, instead of a serious black film about an important, but still unknown major event in black history, like Nat Turner’s rebellion.

And guess what? They were right. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Things have really changed in the film business, which is always evolving all the time, as well as audiences’ tastes and expectations, with films such as “Moonlight”, the upcoming “Fences” and “Hidden Figures”, as well as TV shows like “Atlanta” and “Insecure”. Have filmgoers been waiting for Perry to make a comeback? Does he still have an audience, or have they had their fill of his shtick and moved on?

With his box office grosses diminishing, not surprisingly, Perry’s been concentrating on TV, producing soap operas for the Oprah Winfrey Network, and even putting up his old Atlanta studio on the auction block. In an interview last week, he said that his whole approach to filmmaking had changed, especially after working with David Fincher on “Gone Girl”. Seeing that kind of intense dedication and artistic vision behind the camera, made him realize that he had not been taking his craft seriously enough, and was eager to prove what he learned from Fincher and other filmmakers as well. However, considering that, according to some sources, he shot “Boo!” in six days, compared to Fincher, who is known to average 50 takes a scene, the answer seems to be that he didn’t learn much.

And the reviews prove it, with the critical consensus saying that “Boo!” is exactly like all the other films Perry has made since “Diary of Mad Black Woman”, demonstrating that he definitely believes in the old adage, if it’s not broken, why fix it?

But the still unanswered question is: how did “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” do this weekend?

No doubt this will make defenders of “Birth of Nation” very upset, but “Boo!” did very well indeed. In fact, it slipped past Tom Cruise’s latest picture to take the No.1 slot, with $27.6 million. That puts it just above other Perry “Madea” movies such as “Witness Protection” which grossed $53 million in total, and “Big Happy Family” which made $65 million overall at the box office. There’s no reason that “Boo!” won’t do at least the same. Granted, of all his films, the Madea ones always do much better at the box office than those without the character (by $25-$30 million more on average), such as “Good Deeds” and “The Family That Preys.” And no doubt, the success of “Boo!” will be a shot in the arm for his filmmaking career, and, yes, most likely will lead to more Madea films.

This weekend’s results are also a relief for Lionsgate, the film’s distributor, which really needs a box office hit after a string of flops. The previous distributor of Perry’s films would eventually cut ties with him a couple of years ago, only to get back into the Perry business this year, deciding to release “Boo!” and may not opt to distribute his future films only on a case by case basis. They could have easily passed on “Boo!” allowing Perry to make a deal with a another distributor to release it.

But then again, is Perry interested in making films that are more serious and substantial? Yes, there was “For Colored Girls” which, admittedly, was a travesty in comparison to the original play, and was roundly rejected by critics and audiences. And true, he could definitely be a better filmmaker; but he’s demonstrated that, he either has no interest in becoming one, or he is incapable of being one. However Perry is clearly comfortable in his “safety zone”, and knows what he can and cannot do currently. Perhaps it’s unfair to expect him to make a profound film, on the level of a “Moonlight”. He’s simply not that kind of filmmaker, and maybe not talented enough. He knows his lane and is satisfied to be in it.

And as I previously stated, “Boo!” beat out Tom Cruise’s latest film, a sequel to his 2012 hit “Jack Reacher” subtitled “Never Go Back”. The first “Reacher” film, which was very modestly budgeted film for a Cruise picture, opened with a disappointing $15 million, but excellent word of mouth made the film gross over $80 million domestically, and $220 million worldwide. On top of that, the film was a huge success on home video. “Never Look Back”, which came in second with $23 million, might have the potential to do the same as the first “Reacher” film; but with a larger budget of over $90 million, the film is going to have a tougher time becoming a hit.

Among the other major releases this weekend was the sequel to the 2014 horror movie “Ouija”, entitled “Quija: The Origin of Evil”, which came in third with $14 million. The first film, which was made for only $5 million, opened with $19 million, and went on to make over $103 million worldwide; and there’s no reason why the sequel, which cost only $9 million to make, can’t do the same or at least near that.

And speaking of overseas numbers, the Tom Hanks/Ron Howard film “Inferno”, which doesn’t open stateside until next weekend, has already earned over $50 million.

The other new release is the action-comedy “Keeping up with the Joneses”, though it pretty much tanked with just $5.6 million. But with a seen-it-all-once-too-many-times-before premise, the film didn’t have much of a chance.

Perhaps the one big surprise was the huge drop-off for Kevin Hart’s stand up comedy film “What Now?”. The film fell from second place last week, its opening weekend, to 8th place this weekend, dropping over 65% making it one of the biggest second weekend dropoffs for any film this year. I guess I was wrong when I predicted last week that the film had the potential to become the highest grossing stand up comedy special ever released in theaters. At this rate, it won’t even come close. Well, I can’t get them right all the time!

This weekend’s top 12 box office earners follows below:

1) Boo! A Madea Halloween LGF $27,600,000
2 ) Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Par. $23,000,000
3) Ouija: Origin of Evil Uni. $14,060,000
4 ) The Accountant WB $14,025,000 Total: $47,920,381
5) The Girl on the Train (2016) Uni. $7,270,000 Total: $58,902,330
6) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Fox $6,000,000 Total: $74,431,835
7) Keeping Up with the Joneses Fox $5,600,000
8) Kevin Hart: What Now? Uni. $4,110,000 Total: $18,941,645
9) Storks WB $4,085,000 Total: $64,714,528
10) Deepwater Horizon LG/S $3,625,000 Total: $55,270,671
11) The Magnificent Seven (2016) Sony $2,350,000 Total: $89,093,367
12) Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life LGF $2,265,000 Total:$16,974,927