business

Halloween Movies Now Have a $500 Million Queen

The Boo! series and Tyler Perry’s Madea dominate late October.

Tyler Perry as Madea in Perry's “Boo! 2 A Madea Halloween.”

Source: Chip Bergman/Lionsgate

In the weeks before Halloween each year, Hollywood serves up a cluster of spooky movies, from slasher flicks to psychological thrillers. Yet, for the past two years, the scary holiday has been ruled by one very angry (and very funny) lady, not some killer in a mask or malevolent supernatural force. Her name is Madea.

Tyler Perry’s franchise, starring the actor and filmmaker as the title character, is a reliable moneymaking machine that keeps finding ways to attract audiences. Its past two installments, both Halloween-themed, have dominated box offices in late October as moviegoers seek out laughs to go with their screams. “Boo! A Madea Halloween” and its newly released sequel “Boo 2!” scored box office wins two years in a row, despite lackluster reviews.

Hitting screens on Oct. 21, 2016, the first Boo! racked up $28.5 million in its initial weekend in theaters, beating horror film “Ouija: Origin of Evil” and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” an action sequel that boasted Tom Cruise and a much bigger production budget. Madea stayed atop the box office for a second week, holding off mystery thriller debut “Inferno,” starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones. Its $73.2 million lifetime gross makes it one of the most commercially successful horror comedies ever, alongside such films as ‘Zombieland” and the “Scary Movie” sequels.

The new Boo! is largely living up to the success of its predecessor, grossing $21.2 million in just its first three days and destroying the competition. Disaster tale “Geostorm” came in a distant second with $13.7 million; “The Snowman,” a horror mystery about a serial killer, was able to muster only $3.4 million.

It wasn’t even Perry’s idea to insert creepy films into the Madea cinematic universe. The initial idea came from the 2014 Chris Rock movie “Top Five,” which jokes about a fictional hit film called Boo! A Madea Halloween. Perry got a call from his studio, Lionsgate, which asked him if he could turn the fake film into a real one. Now, just days into the new film’s run, the two “Boo!” films have made $94 million at the domestic box office. They cost a combined $45 million to make.

Perry’s character, Mabel “Madea” Simmons, has developed a loyal following since she first hit theaters in 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” She’s a an easy-to-anger elderly black woman who fearlessly calls out any who defy her, leading to such calamitous situations as the time she got arrested—the plot of the most successful Madea movie, “Madea Goes to Jail.” The eight Madea films that preceded the Halloween sequel hauled in nearly $500 million. None has flopped.

Madea may finally feel some pressure next week, when she goes up against horror film “Jigsaw,” another longtime franchise being milked for every penny. It will be the eighth film in the typically gory Saw series. Don’t be surprised if Madea comes out on top. 

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE