Tyler Perry Madea
Credit: Alfeo Dixon

How important is the director when you decide which movie to see? Traditionally, it’s the stars we pay to see, but I’ve noticed that the director is playing a greater role in my movie-going selection process as I get older. I think it’s because I trust certain directors, whereas that personal relationship doesn’t really exist with movie stars. I trust a director to deliver something both familiar and new, something that I’ve tasted before but in a totally different form.

Take Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), for instance. According to CinemaScore’s survey data, 25 percent of the folks who paid to see Sucker Punch in its opening weekend went primarily because of him. That’s a high number, enhanced perhaps because the film didn’t feature any huge movie stars. But he’s dwarfed by Tyler Perry, whose Madea’s Big Happy Family brought in a $25.1 million haul in its first frame. Thirty-six percent of that movie’s audience said they went because Perry was behind the camera — though I assume that figure reflects some folks who also credited him for being in front of it.

These above-the-title directors are practically brands in themselves, which can be a double-edged sword. Since 2003, only five directors have have received a CinemaScore percentage of 40 percent or higher for two or more of their movies: Perry, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, and… M. Night Shyamalan. It’s safe to presume that a lot of fans who saw Lady in the Water and The Happening went because of M. Night’s then-sterling reputation as a master of suspense and surprise. When a branded-director releases a stinker, he or she absorbs the lion’s share of the blame too.

Are there certain directors you’ll follow anywhere? David Fincher and Christopher Nolan seem like no-brainers, but I’m also a sucker for anything from Peter Weir and the Coen brothers. What auteur gets you in line?

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