Oh hey, it’s Oscar weekend. That’s not going to stop movies from coming out, mind you, but it’s that time of year when the film industry congratulates itself for still making movies. Since the industry has changed dramatically over the last couple years, the films that are doing the most business right now aren’t the nominees, with only The Descendents currently in more than a thousand theaters. And I don’t see The Weinstein’s yet expanding The Artist. What’s up with that?

This weekend brings us the latest in a long line of Tyler Perry films. This one is called Good Deeds. There have been ten Tyler Perry films since 2005, and the lowest grosser still did over $30 Million. The highest – a Madea entry – did over $90 Million. Perry is a cottage industry, produces about two movies a year now, and generally works with lower budgets. Though his attempts at Oscar glory were thwarted with For Colored Girls, he’s still one of the most dependable domestic performers around. He built a label for himself, an audience that doesn’t need aggressive advertising, and a studio that leaves him alone as long as he’s a consistent performer. It’s hard to say when this will dry up (with a television show, there’s a possibility for over-saturation), but – ultimately – the studio system hasn’t been very good lately at pursuing niche markets that have little to no global crossover appeal (Perry’s films play in America, and that’s about it).

Arguably the studio system has little interest in black films or black performers that aren’t Will Smith at this time. The Help dealt with a specific issue (though Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer should win Oscars this weekend, the film wasn’t sold on them), but other than that, there’s been slim pickings. In 2012, for studio films you’ve got Queen Latifah in Joyful Noise (remember that one?), and Red Tails  - which George Lucas financed himself. 2011 felt like one of the whitest years in cinema, with exceptions like England’s Attack the Block and Pariah noted. Sure, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie work, but neither are exactly top-lining theatrical releases. Zoe Saldana – coming off two of 2009′s biggest movies – toplined Columbiana, which was treated like a late summer toss off.

When people complain about Tyler Perry – which people of all colors do (in fact some of Tyler’s biggest naysayers are black) – it’s worth noting why he’s been so successful. And though he gets the “chitlin circuit” critiques, he’s doing what any good entrepreneur does: find a market that feels ignored and plays to it. So far Perry has not inspired imitators that have crossed over.

Wanderlust also opens this weekend. Universal feels like they’re sneaking this one out, which is weird. Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd are stars, perhaps it was a small enough investment that they have no real interest in it, or perhaps director David Wain‘s Role Models overperformed and they owed Wain a picture, but don’t like this one.  Act of Valor is an anomaly – it’s a gimmick picture, though it may play to the audience its intended to. The film feels like a naked appeal to conservative voters, but they – as a block – don’t always turn out, or do so in ways that aren’t remunerative to Hollywood. And speaking of dumps: Gone. Which it will be in two weeks.

So let’s do some numbering:

  1. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds – $23.3 Million
  2. Safe House - $13.7 Million
  3. The Vow – $12 Million
  4. Act of Valor – $11.5 Million
  5. Wanderlust – $11 Million

Valor could go higher, much higher – I don’t think tracking is geared for that audience – and we could see word of mouth benefit Wanderlust. Movie geeks will be off the radar this Sunday, but that shouldn’t effect business that much.

What are you going to watch this weekend?