Black romantic comedies are back! In many cases now they are making more money than white romantic comedies. Steve Harvey’s, Think like a man was 2012’s biggest of the genre, period, grossing $98 million in North America alone. This successful return didn’t happen overnight or by accident, so who should get the full credit?
In the 1990’s romantic comedies like The Best man with Taye Diggs or Vivica A. Fox’s, Booty Call were considered sure hits because they had super small budgets with high returns. None of these movies grossed over $50 million at the boxoffice.
Then, by about the mid 2000’s black romantic comedies all but went extinct from North American Theatres. Enter Tyler Perry, a formerly homeless man who’d created the Madea character for local stage plays and church audiences.
He built up a following around his Madea stage persona, a tough talking middle aged black woman. When Tyler fought to bring his idea to the silver screens an audience was already primed and aware of his creation.
Madea was super successful; Perry had picked up from where the 90’s black romantic comedies fell off, but tweaked their formulaic patterns. The formula is deceptively simple; gather bunch primarily black actors with high name recognition that are unemployed.
After the talented cast is gathered, pay them a relatively small amount to keep the movie’s budget tiny. Even locations were his films are shot is kept simple, like inside churches.
Perry’s genius though was to gather some momentum in black communities that eventually and inevitably spread to other different Diasporas. The 90’s black romantic comedies failed in this area, primarily because the internet was nowhere as far reaching as it is now.
Now Hollywood execs have caught up with Tyler Perry and are replicating his formula, and there films are even out grossing the Madea films.