Half a Billion Dollar Man
Tyler Perry is not just the black man that you’ve seen put on a dress for laughs, he is actually a Hollywood mogul. The filmmaker, writer and director has surpassed many of his caucasion peers when it comes to cashing in at the box office. According to Forbes, Perry is now worth nearly half a billion dollars.
Born in 1969 in New Orleans, Perry is more successful than nearly every other director in Hollywood. He is the only filmmaker in history to have five films open #1 at the box office in the last five years. This puts him ahead of Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron and many other big names in Hollywood.
Perry got his start writing and putting on plays. They became wildly popular, drawing audiences of 35,000 each week. Before hitting Hollywood, Perry was already a millionaire, reportedly selling over $100 million in tickets to his plays and another $30 million in videos.
His films have earned more than $600 million at the box office, but cost less than $10 million dollars to make. Perry gets to keep most of the money from his films because he is typically the person who writes, directs and produces all of his films. Most his films are targeted toward African Americans, which is another reason that he has been able to carve his own niche out in Hollywood.
Perry received a $5.5 million budget to fund his first movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which went on to gross $50.6 million domestically, while scoring a 15 percent approval rating at the film review web site Rotten Tomatoes. On its opening weekend, February 24–26, 2006, Perry’s film version of Madea’s Family Reunion opened at number one at the box office with $30.3 million. The film eventually grossed $65 million. Perry and his co-stars promoted the film on The Oprah Winfrey Show. As with Diary, almost all of the Madea’s earnings have been generated in the United States.
Perry’s next Lionsgate project, Daddy’s Little Girls, starred Gabrielle Union and Idris Elba and was released in the United States on February 14, 2007. It grossed over $31 million.
Perry wrote, directed, produced and starred in his next film, Why Did I Get Married?, released on October 12, 2007. It opened at number one, grossing $21.4 million that weekend. It is loosely based on his play of the same name. Filming began March 5, 2007, in Whistler, British Columbia, a resort town north of Vancouver, then moved to Atlanta, where Perry had opened his own studio. Janet Jackson, Sharon Leal, Jill Scott, and Tasha Smith appeared in the film. Perry’s 2008 film, Meet the Browns, released on March 21, opened at number 2 with a $20.1 weekend gross. The Family That Preys opened on September 12, 2008, and grossed over $37.1 million.
Madea Goes to Jail opened at number one on February 20, 2009, grossing $41 million and becoming his largest opening to date. This was Perry’s seventh film with Lionsgate Entertainment. At the request of director J. J. Abrams, also in 2009, Perry had a small role as the Starfleet Academy commandant Admiral Barnett in Star Trek, which opened on May 8. This was his first film appearance outside of his own projects. Perry next wrote, directed, and starred in I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009), a film structured around his Madea character. This was Perry’s eighth film and it also made number one at the box office.
In 2009, Perry teamed with Oprah Winfrey to present Precious, a film based on the novel Push by Sapphire. This film enabled Monique to win an oscar for the best supporting actress award.
Why Did I Get Married Too?, the sequel to Why Did I Get Married?, opened in theaters on April 2, 2010. It featured Janet Jackson, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett, Jr., Jill Scott, and Malik Yoba. The film grossed $60 million domestically, with $29 million made the opening weekend.
Perry directed a film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which was released in theaters November 5, 2010. He appeared in the stage show Madea’s Big Happy Family, which toured the U.S. as a stage play and was released as a movie in 2011, written, directed by, and starring Perry. The film version of Madea’s Big Happy Family raked in $25.8 million at the box office, taking second place. In January 2011, it was announced that Perry would take over the role of James Patterson’s Alex Cross from Morgan Freeman for the film adaptation of Alex Cross. The film opened on October 19, 2012, and received praise from critics and audiences for his performance. His performance in Alex Cross gained the attention of director David Fincher and casted Perry in the upcoming thriller Gone Girl. Perry will co-star in the film with Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Perry’s next film with Lionsgate was Good Deeds, in which Perry plays lead character Wesley Deeds. Good Deeds is a romantic drama film written, directed by, and starring Perry. The film was released on February 24, 2012. It is the tenth of eleven films that Perry directed and appears in. The film received a 29% rating by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and opened with a box office $16,000,000. The movie also stars Thandie Newton, Rebecca Romijn, Gabrielle Union, Eddie Cibrian, Jamie Kennedy, Phylicia Rashad, and others.
Perry released his thirteenth film, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (based on his 2008 play of the same name) on March 29, 2013. The film stars Lance Gross, Jurnee Smollett, Brandy Norwood, Robbie Jones, Vanessa L. Williams, and Kim Kardashian.
He produced Tyler Perry Presents Peeples, released on May 10, 2013. He returned to the big screen with A Madea Christmas, released on December 13, 2013. Perry directed a film titled The Single Moms Club, slated to open on March 14, 2014.
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:
1) Tyler Perry’s success shows that you don’t have to wait for a white man in a fancy suit to give you an opportunity. You have a great market right in front of you for your products, but you have to figure out how to properly position your product for sale and your company for growth. This might require that you spend some time studying business. Tyler was already doing quite well long before Hollywood came calling.
2) Perry makes the bulk of the money from his films because he takes on the bulk of the credit. This says a few things: a) Tyler understands the Hollywood business model and thus positions himself to get most of the benefits from his releases, b) those around him are not empowered to demand that they be recognized for their contributions or that Perry at least share some of that spotlight, and c) despite being filthy rich, Perry still works very, very hard. It is his vision and hard work that have made Tyler Perry successful and famous.
Sources: Wikipedia.com and FinancialJuneteenth.com