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Tyler Perry: Lions Gate's Best Man

Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF  ) let out a huge roar over the weekend, as its latest film, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married, topped the multiplex food chain.

The movie took in $21.4 million domestically from Friday through Sunday, according to Boxofficemojo.com. That knocks Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) The Game Plan to second place with a gross of $11 million (its total gross to date is just shy of $60 million). Rounding the rest of the top five are features by Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) , and Viacom (NYSE: VIA  ) -- yes, the independent Lions Gate can thrive in a jungle of heavies.

Lions Gate has a great thing going with Perry. During the winter of 2006, he and the studio enjoyed a great opening weekend with Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion. A year before that, Diary of a Mad Black Woman was raking in the bucks. Perry's value as a brand is developing some serious equity.

Title

Cumulative gross

Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion

$63.3 million

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

$50.6 million

Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls

$31.4 million

Source: Boxofficemojo.com.

Investors should be pleased with Perry's latest hit. In addition to doing well during its entire run at the theater, it will presumably be a hit in the important home-video market.

While Perry and the Saw films (the fourth grisly installment hits theaters later this month) have been quite successful, Lions Gate could be relying too heavily on just a couple of major franchises. The Hostel series hit a bit of a bump in its second go-round. Meanwhile, the Saw franchise alone has grossed more than $415 million worldwide, and it currently provides three of the top five highest-grossing Lions Gate films.  

Lions Gate needs to establish a few more sequel-spawning theatrical hits to flesh out its value proposition to shareholders. That's easier said then done, of course -- again, this is the movie industry we're talking about. (So far, its WWE (NYSE: WWE  ) movies haven't been blockbuster hits.) But with all the potential ancillary markets out there -- especially considering video on demand and various broadband platforms -- a few hits can really mean a lot to the bottom line.  

I still like Lions Gate. It's been fueled by the cash-flow generation from its new releases and library products. Investors who are interested in a more direct play on the Hollywood industry -- as opposed to getting lost in a big media conglomerate such as News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) -- can look to Lions Gate.     

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