17 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- Tyler Perry's triumph at the boxoffice last weekend with Why Did I Get Married has heartened the growing number of studios looking to crack the market for black films.

But those studios also could face an unlikely problem: Tyler Perry.

The number of distributors and producers making movies that star and target blacks is climbing at an unprecedented clip. They're reversing a pattern of studio indifference that for years allowed smaller players like Lionsgate, which has seen a boxoffice gross of about $145 million from the three previous Perry films it has distributed, to enjoy a windfall.

"There's probably not one new story to tell that hasn't been told about white people," said Sony Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper, whose label is opening two black-targeted comedies in the next three months: the holiday pic This Christmas and the Ice Cube starrer First Sunday. "But there are so many stories that haven't been told yet about people with brown and black faces."

For all the carping about how Hollywood doesn't give Perry respect -- though of course he often gets respect in articles about how he doesn't get respect -- it's also a fertile time for black movies.

At Our Stories Films, the Weinstein Co.'s co-venture with BET founder Robert Johnson, several projects are in development, while sister unit Dimension is prepping Comeback, a sports dramedy with Ice Cube.

Even specialty divisions are getting in on the act. Fox Searchlight may have had a disappointing result with Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife, but it's still casting in New York for a potential Notorious B.I.G. biopic.


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