The U.S. movie industry is still struggling to adjust to rapidly-emerging demographic shifts that have change the makeup of movie theater audiences and the definition of once easy-to-define terms like “blockbuster” and “movie star.” Whereas years ago superheroes lived on low(er)-budget television and grownup dramas ruled the box office, that dynamic has now largely shifted – while the indie scene is increasingly buoyed by breakout hits often centered on (and produced by) filmmakers from diverse and/or marginalized backgrounds.
Now, “Old Hollywood” has received another confirmation that times have changed, as onetime megastar Tom Cruise saw his latest action film toppled by a low-budget family comedy aimed primarily at African-American audiences.
As reported by Variety, Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween edged out the box office for Cruise’s highly-promoted Jack Reacher: Never Go Back with an estimated $27.6 million versus $23 million for the Cruise sequel. Both films received mostly poor reviews from critics, though Reacher was listed higher on Rotten Tomatoes at 40% compared to 29% for Perry’s most recent film,which once again features his popular female stage persona Mabel “Madea” Simmons – a foul-mouthed, gun-toting older woman whom the star has described as a “PG rated” homage to his own mother and aunt.
While this by no means tags the Jack Reacher sequel as a “bomb,” failure to open in first place surely has to smart for Paramount Pictures, who revived the franchise somewhat unexpectedly after a decent but unspectacular take for the original, and fast-tracked the sequel for this quarter. The film features Cruise as an ex-Military Police investigator turned vigilante drifter who attempts to rescue and protect an Army Major (Cobie Smulders) framed for murder by a mercenary corporation. While it’s possible the sequel could still have legs, the performance would seem to cast prospects for a third outing somewhat in doubt.
Though most mainstream movie critics first became aware of Perry and Madea when the feature film adaptation of his stage play Diary of A Mad Black Woman became a “surprise” smash hit in 2006, the writer/director/actor/producer powerhouse had been refining the character and her extended cast of family and friends as part of a series of theater productions running throughout the so-called “Urban Theater Circuit” for years prior; building up a massive, overwhelmingly black fan base helped make Diary and subsequent films continually successful at the U.S. box office and are widely cited as indicative of the underestimated box office potential in catering to black audiences. In 2011, Forbes named Perry as the highest-paid man in the entertainment business based on combined income from his various projects; which includes a development stake in Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network.
Cruise will next be seen in the biographical crime thriller American Made, and is also set to appear in Universal’s reboot of The Mummy. Perry’s next official film project is not known, though he continues to write and produce his four currently-running television series For Better Or Worse, The Haves and Have Nots, Love Thy Neighbor, If Loving You Is Wrong and Too Close To Home.