The latest movie from writer/director/actor Tyler Perry crushed some high-powered competition at the weekend box office in North America, earning more than the combined total of films starring Oscar winners George Clooney and Cate Blanchett.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, Perry's romantic comedy-drama Why Did I Get Married? sold $21.5 million worth of tickets. It ended the two-week reign of the family comedy The Game Plan, which slipped to a distant No. 2 with $11.5 million.

Clooney's legal drama Michael Clayton jumped 19 places to No. 3 after expanding nationally in its second weekend. It earned $11 million, tying with We Own the Night, a new crime drama starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg.

Blanchett took the No. 6 spot with the historical drama Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which opened to a disappointing $6.2 million. Just ahead of her was the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid with $7.4 million in its second weekend.

Perry's Why Did I Get Married? revolves around the turbulent lives of four married couples, and he is joined in the cast by Janet Jackson and Jill Scott.

Industry pundits had largely marked down the movie's chances, despite Perry's success with such chart-toppers as 2005's Diary of a Mad Black Woman ($21.9 million opening), and 2006's Madea's Family Reunion ($30 million opening).

This is the last time that anyone will underestimate Tyler Perry, said Tom Ortenberg, president of distribution at the Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.-owned studio.


Going into the weekend, various forecasters had predicted a tight race for the lead, with the leading contenders likely to be bunched in the low- to mid-teen millions.

Ortenberg said Perry's movies, which incorporate themes of family and personal redemption, speak to a nontraditional moviegoing audience that does not show up in pre-release studies. We aren't the least bit surprised by the opening, he said.

As is the case with Perry movies, the audience was heavily black -- about 90 percent -- and 65 percent of moviegoers were female, Ortenberg said. The studio has been trying to boost his crossover appeal to white audiences with an eye on the exponential boost to box office sales. Ortenberg said Perry's DVDs sell well across the demographics.

As for the other new entries, Warner Bros. had thought it might have a solid shot at winning the weekend with Michael Clayton, in which Clooney plays the titular hero. In the end, the Time Warner Inc.-owned studio said it was happy with the $11 million opening, hoping that review-sensitive older moviegoers would underpin business in the coming weeks.

Critics were less enthused about Columbia Pictures' We Own the Night, which stars Phoenix and Wahlberg as brothers battling with Soviet-era drug kingpins. Its $11 million opening was termed solid by the Sony Corp.-owned studio.

Universal said it was disappointed with the $6.2 million opening for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in which Blanchett reunites with fellow Australian Geoffrey Rush and director Shekhar Kapur for a follow-up to 1998's Elizabeth. Critics were also underwhelmed. Universal is a unit of General Electric Co's NBC Universal Inc.

Elsewhere, Walt Disney Co's The Game Plan has earned $59.5 million after three weekends. A week after its disappointing debut, the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid slipped three places to No. 5 with $7.4 million; the 10-day total stands at $26 million. The film was released by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures, both units of Viacom Inc.