'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' Comes Out Swinging at Number One
As the Academy Awards named the dour Million Dollar Baby as Best Picture, moviegoers opted for warm, joyful comedy, flocking to Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Hitch. Diary surprised the industry as it grooved to No. 1, appealing to an under-served adult female audience with a relatable story adapted from a popular touring stage production.

Based on the Gospel-rooted play by Tyler Perry, an ex-homeless New Orleans native who also wrote, produced and co-starred, and starring Kimberly Elise as a woman unceremoniously dumped by her wealthy husband, Diary of a Mad Black Woman banked $21.9 million at 1,483 venues, averaging a hefty $14,770 per site. On its opening day alone, it made more than Elise's last picture Woman, Thou Art Loosed did in its entire run. According to Lions Gate exit surveys, 74 percent of Diary's audience was female and 72% was over the age of 25.

Lions Gate will expand the $5.5 million budgeted Diary of a Mad Black Woman on Mar. 4 by over 200 theaters and will ramp up promotion. In addition to ongoing spotlighting on Black Entertainment Television, the movie will be featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the full hour on Friday, Mar. 4. Diary's Elise played Winfrey's daughter in Beloved, and Winfrey also did a show on Elise's Woman, Thou Art Loosed last year.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman's debut was comparable to Barbershop, which raked in $20.6 million at 1,605 theaters in 2002 and ended up with $75.8 million. Waiting to Exhale, which also dealt with a woman scorned by her husband, garnered $14.1 million, or over $20 million adjusted for ticket price inflation, during its four-day holiday weekend in 1995 at 1,253 venues, on its way to $67.1 million ($95 million adjusted).

With the success of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Perry and Lions Gate will continue their franchise with Madea's Family Reunion—Madea being the gun-toting, straight-shooting granny that Perry portrays in drag in Diary and several of his plays—which is scheduled for a February 2006 release.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman further stood out with its title, which looked all the more striking on marquees next to the generic names of its competitors like Cursed and Man of the House.

Seeking to give some teeth to the historically tame werewolf genre like they did for the slasher picture, Scream team director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson's Cursed was all howl and no bite. The thriller woofed up $9.6 million at 2,805 locations.

Cursed lived up to its title, instead of sharing in the recent horror spoils, because it did not have a creepy premise or trailer. It was more about transformation a la Teen Wolf where the lead characters could be the killers, instead of innocent victims being tormented as in Boogeyman, The Grudge and others. Werewolf pictures have had limited appeal in recent decades, the average one making about $20 million.

Formerly called Cheer Up before its less descriptive title change, Man of the House was not a re-release of the 1995 Jonathan Taylor Thomas-Chevy Chase comedy of the same name, but, like that picture, the Tommy Lee Jones-protecting-cheerleaders comedy also used the song "Gonna Make You Sweat" by C + C Music Factory in its trailer.

Man of the House had little to cheer about with $8.9 million at 2,422 theaters, a markedly modest release for a broad appeal comedy from Sony. The distributor's exit polling showed that 52% of the audiences was under 25 and 54% was female. The picture tried for both The Fugitive and Bring It On fans with Tommy Lee Jones' trademark gruffness contrasted against a gaggle of perky college cheerleaders—but some opposites are simply too contrived to attract crowds. Apparently, audiences prefer to see a tough Sandra Bullock get a makeover in Miss Congeniality, not an elder, respected character actor receiving a facial.

Among holdovers, Hitch held strongly in its third weekend, down 35 percent to $20.4 million for a 17-day tally of $121.4 million. Constantine began its descent in its second weekend, plunging 60% to $12.0 million and lifting its total to $51.0 million in 10 days.


THIS TIME LAST YEAR: 'Passion of the Christ' Nails $26.6M on First Day

Weekend Box Office Chart

NOTE: This report was updated on Monday, Feb. 28 with actual grosses.