The Tyler Perry juggernaut

How did an African-American playwright, nearly unknown to white America, become one of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers?

Topics: Beyond the Multiplex, Tyler Perry, Movies,

In this week’s Beyond the Multiplex/IFC video, Matt Singer and I take a look at the complicated — and amazing — story of Tyler Perry, the writer, director and star of box-office smashes like “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Why Did I Get Married?” and the new “Meet the Browns.”

Perry began writing plays as a teenager in New Orleans, and spent many years writing and directing touring productions aimed at African-American audiences. He emerges from a venerable tradition in black theater, one based in moralistic, often religious melodramas aimed at a wide popular audience — and also one that remains almost invisible to white Americans.

Whatever you make of his movies as art or entertainment, Perry’s successful translation of his stage work into box-office hit films is one of the great stories of Hollywood entrepreneurship in recent decades. And it proves that the massive conglomerates that dominate the entertainment economy still can’t predict or control what audiences actually want to see.

(Subscribe to the Beyond the Multiplex video podcast through iTunes or RSS.)

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