From “The View” to “The Tavis Smiley Show,” actress-comedienne Mo’Nique has been busy making the talk show rounds this week enthusiastically talking up her comedy, “Phat Girlz,” which opens in theaters today. Mo’Nique, best known for starring in the UPN sitcom “The Parkers,” has good reason for being optimistic about the movie’s box office prospects. The release from Fox Searchlight comes on the heels of a string of successful films in recent months that have starred African-American actors. “Inside Man” starring Denzel Washington and directed by Spike Lee, Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Family Reunion,” and the Martin Lawrence comedy “Big Momma’s House 2” all opened at No. 1 at the domestic box office during the movie industry’s first quarter. In addition, the new Warner Bros.’ release “ATL,” a drama about four friends coming of age in Atlanta, was a solid third place last weekend with an gross of $11.55 million. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event“Certainly all of them had a very large African-American audience that came out,” said Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com. “What studios are finding out is that African-American moviegoers continue to be a very strong component of the moviegoing audience and so it makes sense to provide films that excite that audience.” “Inside Man” and “Momma’s House” have benefited from crossover appeal but such hits as “Madea,” “ATL” and last year’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” have mostly connected with African-American audiences. “When it’s the right film with the right story and the right star, then you’ve got a box office hit on your hands,” Pandya said. “Oftentimes they are very profitable movies because the budgets aren’t very high; it’s a matter of targeting the audience and reaching out to them.” “Girlz” is about an aspiring plus-size fashion designer, portrayed by Mo’Nique, and her struggle to find love and acceptance. “The combination of Mo’Nique and writer-director Nnegest Likke is something we’re quite excited about because they have a unique sort of voice and vision and are telling a story that has never been told in a way that’s never been told,” Fox Searchlight’s Chief Operating Officer Stephen Gilula said Thursday. “Girlz” will open in 1,056 locations particularly targeted to areas that have significant African-American populations. “We’ve had a lot of success with our targeted African-American films `Kingdom Come,’ `Brown Sugar,’ and `Johnson Family Vacation,”‘ Gilula said. “The core audience are Mo’Nique fans and African-American women; so much of the marketing effort has been focused on reaching that core audience.” It is no coincidence, according to Pandya, that many of these films have succeeded during the months of January, February and March with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Black History Month providing countless promotional opportunities. “There is a six-week period where there is a lot of attention on African-American stories,” Pandya said. “The studios have figured out that this is a nice time of year to serve what is often times an underserved audience.” In 2004, “Diary” stunned the movie industry when it opened at No. 1 as did the Will Smith comedy “Hitch,” the basketball drama “Coach Carter” starring Samuel L. Jackson, the Ice Cube comedy “Are We There Yet?” and the interracial romance comedy “Guess Who,” which starred Bernie Mac opposite Ashton Kutcher. “It should not have been a surprise that these films made so much money,” said Pandya. “We’ve seen it before and often times Hollywood forgets that.” But not all African-American films succeeded during the first quarter. Most notably, the romantic comedy “Something New” failed to become the Valentine’s Day date movie it was positioned for. “New,” released by Focus Features, had a $4.9 million opening weekend but ended its domestic run with a gross of just $11.4 million. But the success stories outnumber the commercial failures and have not just been limited to the first quarter. Last summer, the Paramount Classics release “Hustle & Flow,” made for just $8 million, grossed $22.2 million and earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for star Terrence Howard. “A lot of the genre divisions are acquiring and releasing movies with black stars and black movies and most of them seem to be working,” Pandya said. “It’s a very attractive audience, very large and loyal and they come out and spend money on good films. It doesn’t matter what color the people are if they come out and spend the green, that’s what movie companies care about.” email@example.com (818) 713-3758160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!