You'd think world domination would be enough.
But, no, Tyler Perry isn't satisfied by his box-office-busting success in four artistic genres: film, TV, books and live theater.
He's not content that, in the past 15 years, he's gone from living in his car to living in a 26-room mansion in Atlanta.
It isn't sufficient that next month will see the opening of the Tyler Perry Studios, a 30-acre complex with five soundstages southwest of Atlanta, where Perry hopes to nurture undiscovered talent.
No, whether by accident or by design, Perry's newest inspirational film - which will be released Friday on his 40th birthday - is his first project with the potential to reach the white audience who make up the majority of moviegoers.
Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys is the only one of his six films to date to star an interracial cast. Perry cast two powerhouse actresses in the lead roles - Kathy Bates, who is white, and Alfre Woodard, who is black.
During an interview in a downtown hotel, Perry protests that he didn't cast the Academy Award-winning Bates or the other white actors in the cast with the thought of wooing white ticket-buyers.
"Of course, I want to reach as many people as possible," he says.
"But this film isn't an attempt to appeal to a broader audience; it's just the story I wanted to tell at this time. Right now, I'm working on a movie that I initially wrote 15 years ago about the relationship between a Holocaust survivor and a jazz singer."
The Family That Preys tells the story of the friendship between the wealthy socialite Charlotte Cartwright (Bates) and Alice Pratt (Woodard), a working-class woman who owns a local diner. When the lives of both are disrupted by unethical business practices and their adult children's extramarital affairs, the two friends get away from their problems by embarking on a wild road trip together.
Though Perry eschews traditional marketing routes - his films are not screened for critics and, until recently, weren't advertised in newspapers - chances are that this new movie will make its debut at No. 1 at the box office.
Three of Perry's previous five films opened in the top slot, and a fourth finished second, edged out by the mammoth popularity of Horton Hears A Who. Only Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls could be considered a mere middling success, having racked up $31 million in box-office receipts to date.
That's even more remarkable, considering that Perry's film audiences were made up heavily of African-Americans, whom Perry reached through church groups and by advertising on black radio stations.
His 2006 book, Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings soared to the top of The New York Times' best-seller list for nonfiction the day it was released, and remained there for two months. His television show, House of Payne, on TBS, is the most-watched comedy sitcom ever on cable. And Perry's 11 stage plays were seen by an average of 35,000 people each week in 2005 alone.
Perry's core audience includes churchgoing African-American women who warm to his stories of middle-class characters afflicted with such real-life problems as domestic violence and drug abuse. The characters solve their dilemmas by drawing on their faith in God and their love for one another.
Expanding his brand
"I think Tyler Perry is showing what an astute businessman he is," says Jannette Dates, Dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University.
"He's taking his brand and expanding it to make more money yet. But, his films always have a message, usually more than one. Broadening his audience also allows him to get out his message to more people."
That message tends to preach self-empowerment; Perry's films are notable for their lack of political content. In The Family That Preys, both the heroes and villains are divided evenly between black and white characters. Perhaps one line late in the film has a racial subtext - and even that is debatable.
"Some people say the biggest issue for a black person is the race issue, and that doesn't even enter into Perry's conversation," Dates says. "That might be one of the reasons people like his movies. They get tired of living under that weight."
But every silver cloud had a dark lining. Perry's core audience turns out in droves for each new project. But, once that group is exhausted, box-office receipts drop precipitously. In film parlance, Perry's films have "short legs."
That's one reason for including such mainstream draws as Bates in the cast.
"When Kathy's name was first suggested to me, I said, 'No way are we going to get Misery star Kathy Bates," Perry says, referring to the 1990 film for which the actress won her Oscar. "She was a little hesitant at first, but when she heard that Alfre was going to do it, that sealed the deal."
Another reason for introducing white actors into his stories is that Perry's lifestyle has changed so drastically.