Even without knowing all the big winners at the Academy Awards Show last night, I know that for us, when it comes to movie victories, the biggest winner this weekend was Tyler Perry. Whether you loved his new movie, “Madea Goes to Jail,” or not, you saw it this weekend or someone in your family did. There was no where I went this weekend where black people were gathered where this movie wasn’t being talked about. And black people weren’t the only people seeing it either. Members of my staff in different suburban areas of Dallas told me they saw it with mixed audiences, and that’s becoming more of the norm with Tyler Perry movies. He’s come very long way, and when you listen to him talk, you know the sky is the limit. As he told Larry King on Friday, in five years he plans to own his TV network, and we have no reason to doubt him. He thinks big and dreams big. But beyond that, he has mastered the art of turning everything that he does into an event. Whether his product is always the best isn’t the point. The point is you don’t want to miss it. But the thing that impresses me the most about Tyler Perry is that he hasn’t forgotten who his primary audience is.
Sure, he’s gaining crossover appeal, but not because he’s sacrificing what attracted his core audience to him from the beginning. Sure, having casting Dr. Phil in “Madea Goes to Jail” might have brought some non-traditional Tyler Perry fans into the theaters, but I don’t think you ever have to worry about Tyler Perry forgetting how he got where he is. He’s loyal to his cast and crew members who were with him in the early days and the same with audience. Like Spike Lee, who boldly announced early in he career that he was making movies for black people, Tyler Perry makes plays, TV shows and movies for black people, and there’s no shame in his game. So even though, as the movie industry handed out its highest honors last night, I doubt if Tyler Perry’s body of work was on the minds of any of them. And that’s okay because sometimes the all the glitter and glamour of Hollywood keeps people from seeing the world as it really is. But when they’re done rewarding each other and patting each on the backs then come down to earth, they won’t be able to help but notice there’s a new player in town. They don’t have to love him, but they have to respect him. Congratulations, Tyler. Take a bow.