By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act March 29, 2013 at 12:41PM
As I told my colleagues privately, I'm really curious to see how well Tyler Perry's Temptation does this opening weekend.
It's the first Tyler Perry film since 2010 that he doesn't appear in. The last film he wrote and directed that he didn't star in was For Colored Girls which was released in November 2010. Since then, he's starred in every Tyler Perry-stamped film - a total of 4 films over that 3-year time period (including Alex Cross, which he didn't write or direct).
And that's key because Tyler Perry films that don't star Tyler Perry have been his weakest films overall (there really haven't been that many in which he didn't star). And drilling even further, average box office for Tyler Perry movies WITH Madea are a lot higher than average box office for Tyler Perry movies WITHOUT Madea.
So, history isn't exactly on his side with Temptation because, first, as noted, he's not in the film, and films in which he doesn't appear (whether as Madea, or some other character) haven't been his strongest performers; and secondly, there's no Madea in this one, and his non-Madea films just haven't been as big a draw, as his Madea movies, on average, have.
Will that trend continue with Temptation? I dunno. We'll just have to wait to see when the weekend results are posted on Sunday.
Might its casting bring in audiences that usually don't see Tyler Perry films? And I'm not only thinking of Kim Kardashian, whom I hear isn't in the film all that much anyway. But, from previous posts on this site on Jurnee Smollett (who stars in the film), reader reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, not only within the comments here, but also on Facebook and Twitter. She appears to have a solid fan-base who want to see her succeed. So they might support her in this.
And while I'm not particularly sold on Lance Gross as an actor, he's also a draw in some audience circles - especially among young black women, and gay men.
Brandy and Vanessa Williams as well as in supporting roles.
There's also the seemingly salacious sell, with Perry and some of the film's marketing emphasizing how provocative it is - although it's rated PG13. But maybe provocative is relative here - so it's provocative for a Tyler Perry film. And thus one question in reaction to that would be whether his usual pious fan-base will be turned off by the idea of a, dare I say, *sinful* and *sexy* Tyler Perry movie. Or will they be enticed for those same reasons?
Perry said he showed the film to 100 pastors in a private screening, for their approval, and it seems like they gave the film their blessings, based on what he told his readers on his blog a few days ago. And I'm sure Perry encouraged the pastors to spread the "good word" about the film to their various congregations, encouraging them to see the film, which Perry has also urged troubled couples to see, because he believes the film "has the power to save relationships."
And I'll even add that the trailer for the film doesn't entirely turn me off as the trailers for past Tyler Perry films have done. This one actually looks like it has some *atmosphere* to it.
So, in summary, if Temptation doesn't perform in-line with past Tyler Perry films in which Tyler Perry doesn't star (although preferably, I'm sure Lionsgate and Perry would love to see it outperform those previous films), it might affect the choices Tyler Perry makes on future projects; because it'll essentially further cement the unfortunate truth that the only kind of Tyler Perry movie with real box office potential is the Tyler Perry movie in which he stars as Madea.
Perry himself has stated several times over the years that he'd love to hang up the Madea fat suit and wig, but strong fan support and box office continues to suggest that he'd be foolish to let that cash-cow (no pun intended) go.
However, I can only imagine how frustrating that could be for him (but also for audiences who have grown tired of Madea, and who want to see Tyler Perry grow as a filmmaker). Clearly he wants to stretch himself, and explore other kinds of material and styles of filmmaking, which I think is great; but the problem is, each time he's done that, audiences just haven't rewarded him at the box office.
The only Tyler Perry films in which he starred (or co-starred), but NOT as Madea, that have done good box office, are the Why Did I Get Married movies. But in those, he wasn't THE star. Both were ensemble cast dramas, with actors who have their own fans; so one can say, based on evidence, that the audience draw for each film, unfortunately wasn't Tyler Perry. He was a piece of a much larger pie, so to speak.
The subject matter for both films (marriage and relationships) also likely contributed to their success.
Audiences don't show up when he plays leading men (Good Deeds and Alex Cross most recently demonstrate that). It's as if even his loyal fan-base (the rest of us aside) isn't entirely sold on Tyler Perry playing a romantic lead or action hero.
They also don't show up when he's not in his films.
They only truly support him when he's wearing that fat-suit, wig, glasses, long dress etc, speaking with that higher-pitched voice.
So what's the man to do? Is he doomed to play Madea forever, or will we eventually see some shift in perceptions of Perry that allow him to be, as well as embrace him as something/someone else that doesn't immediately engender ridicule at the thought?
His next two films support my above arguments about box office, and suggest that Perry himself may also be paying attention to these trends: One is a Madea movie (Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas); the other is an ensemble dramedy in which he's a piece of a larger pie (Single Moms Club).
Both being the two kinds of Tyler Perry movies that have performed strongest at the box office.
As with his past movies, Temptation didn't screen for press, although its key cast and Tyler Perry have done some interviews with a few major outlets.
But maybe that's where to begin on this road towards a perception shift - he should start screening his films for the press, before they are released, just like the majority of other studio-backed movies.
They'll likely be crucified by much of the press, but at least he won't appear to be shielding himself from criticism, which I think actually hurts how those of us who cover him in the press, see him.
If his audience is critic-proof - as we hear often - then bad reviews from critics prior to the release of any of his films shouldn't affect box office, should it? At this point, given how long he's been in the business, and the number of films he's made, I think most audiences are familiar enough with his work to have some idea of what to expect, and whether you'll appreciate whatever he's offering on any given weekend, or not.
But let's see how audiences react to Temptation this weekend. It's opening on over 2000 screens, however, it has some competition in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Host. The target audiences for each film might vary, but Temptation's cast is younger, which is actually unusual for a Tyler Perry film (another key point). Its star (Smollett) is 26; Gross is 31. Of its main starring cast, Robbie Jones is the oldest, at 35. Yes, Vanessa Williams is a lot older than all of them, but she in a supporting role.
It's a *younger* film we could say - add Brandy, Kim Kardashian in the mix as well, and you have a cast of actors with fan-bases that skew younger.
All that to say that both the audiences for G.I. Joe and The Host, also skew younger. So it'll be an interesting weekend at the box office.
It should be a no-brainer that it'll come down to G.I. Joe and The Host at the top; but let's see how much of a spoiler Temptation can be, if at all.