'Madea' comedy beats up box office rivals
Tyler Perry returns to the box office with another instant number one hit; Oscar nominees lose steam. Oscar nominees lose steam.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Playwright Tyler Perry, who turned his crazy-granny "Madea" character into a lucrative cottage industry, returned to the top of the box office Sunday, exactly one year after stunning the industry with a No. 1 bow for his first film.

"Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion," which Perry wrote, directed and starred in, sold an estimated $30.3 million worth of tickets in its first three days since opening Friday, distributor Lionsgate said.

The comedy-drama revolves around a pistol-toting matriarch, played by Perry, who beats and lectures her chaotic clan into submission. It was not screened in advance for critics, a tactic usually employed when a studio knows a movie will get harsh reviews but fans will turn out anyway.

While Perry, 35, is one of the best-known black playwrights in the United States, with sold-out shows in virtually every city for his "Madea" plays, he was barely a blip on the radar of mainstream movie audiences until last February when "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" opened at No. 1. The revenge comedy, budgeted at $5.5 million, ended its theatrical run with $50 million and was huge seller on home video. It was also released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (Research) Last week's champion, Walt Disney Co.'s (Research) fact-based survival saga "Eight Below," slipped to No. 2 with $15.7 million, taking its 10-day total to $45.1 million.

Two big duds

Two other films opened in theaters, not that many people noticed. The canine cartoon "Doogal" played dead at No. 8 with $3.6 million, while the mob drama "Running Scared" was whacked at No. 9 with $3.1 million.

"Doogal" was released by the Weinstein Co., the privately held firm established by former Miramax Films co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein. "Running Scared" was released by New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner (Research).

Rounding out the top-five, Steve Martin's comedy remake "The Pink Panther," another former champ, was steady at No. 3 with $11.3 million in its third weekend. The film has earned $61 million to date.

The teen comedy "Date Movie" fell two places to No. 4 with $9.2 million, for a 10-day haul of $33.9 million. The computer-animated children's book adaptation "Curious George" dipped one spot to No. 5 with $7 million and a three-week tally of $43.1 million.

"The Pink Panther" was released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp. (Research) while "Date Movie" was released by Twentieth Century Fox, a unit of News Corp. (Research) "Curious George" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of NBC Universal, which is controlled by General Electric (Research).

Oscar bust

In a sign that Oscar buzz has largely been a bust for movie theater owners, three of the five best picture nominees earned a combined $3.4 million during the weekend, with leading contender "Brokeback Mountain" accounting for $2.3 million of that. To date, the gay-cowboy film has earned $75.4 million.

George Clooney's newsroom drama "Good Night, and Good Luck" earned $600,000, while Steven Spielberg's revenge thriller "Munich" pulled in $488,000. Their respective totals stand at $30.3 million and $46.1 million.

Of the two other nominees, the ensemble drama "Crash" is already out on home video, while official estimates for the Truman Capote saga "Capote" were not available. However, a rival studio estimated it made about $1 million, taking its total to about $23 million.

The Academy Awards will be handed out in Hollywood next Sunday.

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.