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Tyler Perry in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail

Alfeo Dixon/Lionsgate

There is, it seems, a box-office brand name stronger than Tyler Perry: Madea. 

Madea Goes to Jail, the comedy-drama starring Perry's signature drag character, grossed a whopping $41.1 million in its weekend debut, its studio estimated today, the biggest Friday-Sunday take since Twilight's bow back in November.

Elsewhere, Friday the 13th, last weekend's $40 million-plus phenom, made the wrong kind of history, and Slumdog Millionaire got beat by another Best Picture contender. 

Drilling down into the numbers:

Madea Goes to Jail is not only based on Perry's most popular character, it's based on Perry's most popular stage show, so Lionsgate was expecting something big. Just not $41.1 million big. "We were cautiously optimistic we could do 30-plus," Steve Rothenberg, the studio's domestic distribution president, said today.

Madea Goes to Jail is not only Perry's top opener of all-time, besting Madea's Family Reunion ($30 million), it's Lionsgate's top opener of all-time, besting Saw III ($33 million). Even better for the studio accountants, Madea Goes to Jail, like Perry's other movies, was Hollywood-cheap, costing under $20 million. 

Who saw Madea Goes to Jail? A younger, more diverse crowd than Perry typically draws. Per Rothenberg, 35 percent of ticketbuyers were under 25, up from 18 percent for his last movie, The Family That Preys; 13 percent were Hispanic, up from 5 percent. The core audience remained African-American women. 

For Cosby Show completists, it should be noted Madea Goes to Jail goes down in the books as the highest-grossing Keshia Knight Pulliam movie ever.

Ticket sales for Friday the 13th fell dropped plunged 81 percent from last weekend. According to Exhibitor Relations, that's the steepest-ever descent for a film playing at more than 3,000 theaters. The record previously belonged to the aptly named Doom, which went skydiving without a parachute in 2005. 

Scary fall or no, Friday the 13th picked up another $7.8 million, and raised its two-weekend total to $55 million.

  Percentage-wise, The Reader ($2.8 million) picked up more post-Oscar nomination business than any other Best Picture contender, including Slumdog Millionaire ($8.1 million), per Box Office Mojo stats. Since 1982, in fact, The Reader has enjoyed Hollywood's fifth-best Oscar bump, with more than 65 percent of its $23.2 million take coming after nominations were announced.

Of tonight's Best Picture hopefuls, Slumdog Millionaire has made the post-nomination money: $53.3 million, per Box Office Mojo. This weekend, it was the only Best Picture film to crack the Top 10, moving all the way up to fifth place.

Once Slumdog tops $100 million overall—it's at $98 million nowit'll become the second 2008 Best Picture contender, after The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($124.2 million), to join the nine-figure club. The last time Oscar had two $100 million-grossers was the Best Picture class of 2004 (The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby).       

In the next day or so, Taken ($11.4 million) should top Schindler's List as the top-grossing Liam Neeson movie to not include the words "Batman" and "Star Wars" in the title. 

Coraline ($11 million) has better legs than Confessions of a Shopaholic ($7.02 million).

Fired Up ($6 million) was no Role Models.

The Pink Panther 2 ($3.7 million) was expelled from the Top 10 after two disappointing weekends, and a $29.4 million take.

Here's a look at the weekend's top-grossing films based on Friday-Sunday estimates from Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, $41.1 million
  2. Taken, $11.4 million
  3. Coraline, $11 million
  4. He's Just Not That Into You, $8.5 million
  5. Slumdog Millionaire, $8.1 million
  6. Friday the 13th, $7.8 million
  7. Confessions of a Shopaholic, $7.02 million
  8. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $7 million
  9. Fired Up, $6 million
  10. The International, $4.5 million