Madea's Witness Protection marks Tyler Perry's 12th directorial effort in the past six years, and his fourth movie to feature his most popular character, Madea, in the title. The prolific writer-director-star's two best debuts came from two of his Madea movies: Madea's Family Reunion opened to $30 million in 2006, while Madea Goes to Jail holds the Perry record with $41 million in 2009. Unfortunately, Madea's Big Happy Family only opened to $25.1 million last year, and other recent Perry movies have also underperformed a bit.
Still, a movie's potential often comes down to the strength of its premise, and Witness Protection has a clearer one than nearly any of Perry's past efforts. It's also broadened its potential audience with American Pie stalwart Eugene Levy, and Lionsgate has been marketing the movie not only to Perry fans but also to comedy fans in general (for example, ads have sporadically appeared on Comedy Central). Lionsgate is currently expecting at least high-teen-millions this weekend.
People Like Us is being sold as a feel-good movie for adults who are waiting for this Summer's The Help, even going so far as to reference last year's Disney/Dreamworks hit in some of its advertising material. Unfortunately, it's pairing a vague title with fairly generic plot points, and so there isn't much for audiences to latch on to. It should generate strong word-of-mouth from those who do see it, though that's contingent on people actually making it out to see it in the first place: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World targeted a similar audience last weekend and only wound up with $3.8 million. People Like Us is getting a wider release, and should fare a bit better, though not by much.
After earning $13 million over five weeks in limited release, Moonrise Kingdom expands nationwide in to 854 locations this weekend. Assuming its indie charms are able to translate a bit outside of major cities, it is well on its way to passing The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ($24 million) to become writer-director Wes Anderson's second-highest-grossing movie ever.
Finally, on Wednesday Fox Searchlight released Sundance sensation Beasts of the Southern Wild at four locations. It appears to be somewhat experimental, and its connection to Hurricane Katrina may hit too close to home for some, and so it's likely that the best case scenario for the movie is a final tally in the neighborhood of Searchlight's The Tree of Life ($13.3 million).