It’s no secret, Hollywood insiders and even fans have wondered how playwright, producer and director Tyler Perry took over film and TV. After all, his creations are often churned out extremely fast and cannot be accused of being Oscar or Emmy material. Yet Perry, known for his notoriously nonstop work ethic, has been creative in growing his fan base.
His secret weapon turns out to be an 800,000-person email mailing list. It may sound old-fashioned in the age of social media, but Perry connected with people via email and he’s done this from the beginning of his career. When he was touring with his plays in the early 2000s, he’d collect email addresses.
He personally handled his email and often chatted about simple things like going to the store along with news of upcoming shows. These emails made a personal connection with fans. In essence, he became their email friend.
“It endeared us together,” he explained to Variety. In the process, his email friends became loyal fans.
In 2003, Perry understood the power of his audience when he booked six shows at the Kodak Theater for his production of “Madea’s Class Reunion.”
“I asked them how many people they had working the box office, and (they said), ‘We have one,’” Perry recalled. “I replied, ‘No, you may want to bring in four or five,’ (and they said), “Oh, no, we don’t need that for this.” I sent the email out, sold out all those shows. The woman (at the theater’s) wig was crooked, she was so shocked at what had happened.”
Perry’s fans followed him from the live theater to the movie theater. Perry’s first foray into Hollywood — “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (2005) –surprised Hollywood by earning $21.9 million in its opening weekend, knocking Will Smith’s “Hitch” off the top slot.
Of course, the film company, Lionsgate, had a marketing team on the film but Perry’s email blasts are credited with helping the movie jump to the top spot.
And Perry’s email list has grown. When he sent the email to his fans describing the production of “Madea’s Class Reunion,” he had nearly 170,000 names on the mailing list. Today he has about 800,000.
He still uses his email list from time to time.
“It’s been quite some time because of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and people are consuming their information that way,” Perry said. “So I use it when I need to.”
One Twitter user posted, “Tyler Perry on the power of his email list ‘That mailing list, that hunger that they have, can’t be tracked; nobody can really reach them. That’s why the tracking for all of my movies was always so far off.’ That list now has 800,000 subscribers.”
With Perry’s success has come accolades. He was recently named Variety‘s 2020 Showman of the Year.
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In 2017, Perry signed a wide-ranging, lucrative deal with BET and Viacom (now ViacomCBS).
Recently declared a billionaire by Forbes, Perry is commanding attention not only on the big screen but the small screen as well. His TV shows have remained super popular — first at TBS, then at Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, and now at BET.
At OWN, Perry produced a pair of soaps — “If Loving You Is Wrong” and “The Haves and the Have Nots.” The latter is still running after seven seasons, Variety reported.