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ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

There was a bit of a shocker at the box office this weekend. The top grossing film wasn't the new George Clooney flick. It wasn't Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth. The big winner was a film starring Janet Jackson called "Why Did I Get Married?"

(Soundbite of movie, "Why Did I Get Married?")

Unidentified Man #1: Four couples.

Unidentified Man #2: We've been arguing ever since we met.

Unidentified Man #1: Seven days.

Unidentified Man #2: I like to argue, because making up is insane.

Unidentified Man #1: One cabin.

Unidentified Man #2: We're gonna need some law enforcement.

Unidentified Man #1: Lion's Gate and Tyler Perry Studios present a story about marriage...

Ms. JANET JACKSON (Actress): (As Patricia) What do I have to do to make it work?

Unidentified Man #1: ...commitment...

Unidentified Woman #2: It's the love that (unintelligible)

Unidentified Man #3: Love.

Unidentified Man #4: Love.

Unidentified Man #1: And making it work.

COHEN: NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates is here to tell us about the man behind this unexpected hit and why so many people went to see it this weekend.

Hi, Karen.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Hey, Alex.

COHEN: So you've been following Tyler Perry's career for quite a while now. Tell us a bit about this guy.

BATES: Well, Tyler is a self-taught playwright in his mid-30s who developed a stream, basically, of plays that deal with black family life for the largest part, and he's turned in to a media mogul because the plays begat movies begat television and now online versions. I mean, he's sort of like a mini-Oprah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: And his latest film "Why Did I Get Married?" made $21.5 million over the weekend. Now, this isn't exactly "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Spiderman"-like figures, but they're pretty good for this time of year. Any idea who went to see it and why so many people went to see it?

BATES: Oh, I know exactly why so many people went to see it. Number one, he has a deep and devoted vein of followers. Two, he's gotten a big bump from Oprah Winfrey, who has sort of mentored him along the way and said, you know, you know what you're doing, have faith in yourself, go forward, it's going to be okay. And he gives her all credit for that. Three, it's family-friendly kind of entertainment. A lot of people who go to see his films are Christians - self-professed Christians - and there's always a baseline of redemption somewhere in the middle of all the glitter and glam and Louis Vuitton. And four, this time around Janet Jackson is a recognizable name. It's pretty glitzy, and she has her own fan base. And five, there's a lot of people who aren't black who are starting to hear about him who are curious. So they're coming too. So that's the 100 percent.

COHEN: Now, Tyler Perry has said himself that's he's been kind of ignored and over looked by the big players in Hollywood. Do you think following this success that things might turn around a little bit for him?

BATES: I think it's hard to ignore a lot of money and that people are certainly going to be looking at him with much less dismissiveness than they did originally.

COHEN: So what's the next big Tyler Perry film that we can all go see?

BATES: Well, no big surprise there. It's a film that's been made from one of his first place, "Meet the Browns." It's in production now and it should hit theater sometime next year, 2008.

BRAND: NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates. Thanks so much.

COHEN: My pleasure.

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