Women Rule the Box Office

Posted on June 10, 2015 at 3:44 pm

“Spy” beat “Entourage” last weekend in the battle of the two R-rated raunchy comedies.  The one featuring women in all the lead roles was first at the box office with a robust $29.1 million, and the one featuring men in all the lead roles came in third, after the previous week’s release, “San Andreas.”  This continues a strong run for women-led films.  In May, Forbes pointed out that six of the top ten films were “girl-powered,” including “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Tomorrowland,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.”  “Moreover, three of them were somewhat gender-neutral. Only one wide release in the top twelve was wholly male-centric. ”

Call it causation, call it correlation, or merely call it coincidence. Come what may, last weekend showed that a Hollywood release slate with copious female-centric options at the multiplex did not harm the overall box office one bit. Not all of these films are good, not all of them are explicitly “feminist” and not all of them are necessarily marketed in a way that highlights their female-centric nature. Yet they are major studio releases, playing at a theater near you, that star women, tell stories concerning women, and (in some cases) concern relationships and conflicts at least tangentially related to the gender of their protagonists and/or antagonists. However, they exist, and they are making money.


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Box Office: Cinderella, Run All Night, and New Data on Moviegoers

Posted on March 17, 2015 at 7:12 pm

You probably were not surprised to learn that not only was Cinderella at the top of the box office last weekend, but it made a whopping $70 million, sure to be one of the highest opening weekend takes of the year. As predicted, most of the ticket-buyers were women. “Run All Night” struggled with the competition from an instant Disney classic and some pretty bad reviews and made only $11 million. But, perhaps surprisingly, most of the ticket-buyers were women for that one, too.

New figures from the MPAA show that for the 5th year in a row, women made up the majority of moviegoers in US and Canada in 2014. It will be interesting to see whether that changes Hollywood’s ideas about what makes a movie marketable.

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The Real Winner At the Box Office This Week: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted on March 9, 2015 at 11:05 am

Copyright Magnolia 2015
Copyright Magnolia 2015

The headlines about the box office over the weekend are misleading. “Chappie” was number one in overall revenue, but still disappointing. The top box office winner in a given week is usually in the $20-40 million range, with special-effects films like “Chappie” often going up as high as $60 million or more. Last week, “Focus” was at the top with a weak $19 million. “Chappie” only made $13 million. And “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” was listed as third with just $8.6 million. But the much more important number is how much it made per theater. In that category, “Marigold Hotel 2” was substantially ahead of “Chappie,” and that, in my opinion, makes it the real #1 for the week. Maggie Smith and Judi Dench did better than the big budget robots and Hugh Jackman. Dev Patel, who was in both movies, must have mixed feelings.

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Lucy and the Box Office: The Good News and the Bad News

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 8:00 am

Copyright 2014 Universal Pictures
Copyright 2014 Universal Pictures

Last week, “Lucy” beat “Hercules” at the box office, good news for those who still think that women-led action films can’t make money. As blog The Mary Sue put it succinctly: “Today In Female-Led-Movies-Obviously-Don’t-Make-Money News, Lucy Beat Out Hercules This Weekend.”

Make no mistake, readers: as Susana Polo pointed out in her review on FridayLucy is not a good film and probably not worth spending money on to watch in-theaters (though neither is Hercules, of course). And yet, it made about 1.5 times more than Hercules at the box office this weekend.

On the other hand, this is not exactly a big step forward for stories that illuminate the experience of being a woman.  It does not pass the Bechdel test.  Jezebel’s Powder Room blog has a thoughtful assessment from C. Rhodes.  And also

Because the titular role is the only significant speaking role for a woman in the entire damned movie. We cannot (CANNOT) settle for this being a movie “for” feminism.

Because the trope of a woman getting psychically violated and used by a group of men is old, reinforces a lot of negative gender stereotypes on both sides, and frankly if you combine Brokedown Palace and Limitless we’ve already had this movie poured into our long-suffering eye-holes.

And because, most importantly, it’s one of the most racist things on a screen right now. The bad guys? Asian men. The entire movie focuses on her need to get out from under the grips of a group of villains who are pretty exclusively people of color…and if that’s not a loaded message, I don’t know what is.

For an opposing view, take a look at a column by Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff, who argues that “Lucy is a staunchly feminist film that sometimes seems terrified of feminism.”  I’m not persuaded by his argument, which seems to rest on two points: (1) Lucy has to become less of a woman and less of a human to combat the evil forces and (2) her violence is directed against men.  But it is an interesting point of view.

Besson’s interest in archetypal feminist action heroes in the vein of Ripley from Aliens or many of his prior female leads gives way here to something slightly more complicated. Yes, Lucy gets to a place where she kicks ass and takes names, but there’s always something disquieting about it. For Lucy, to become a badass action hero requires largely getting rid of her humanity….Lucy is a film about smashing the patriarchy that also has some degree of ambivalence about what that might actually look like. After all, consider the figure that Lucy becomes: she kills or dismisses men without a second thought, she is in control of her sexual agency completely and implicitly, and she eventually evolves past men (and the rest of humanity) entirely. Then she deigns to leave humanity with a tiny gift that contains her vastly superior knowledge.

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Box Office This Week: Despicable Me Beats Lone Ranger — So Does Kevin Hart

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

The 4th of July weekend is always one of the biggest box office weeks of the year and this year broke the record again.  Sequel Despicable Me 2 was the undisputed champ, with a whalloping $82 million, helped out a bit by the 3D surcharge.  This was a big boost from the original’s $56 million open.  For me, the meaningful number is not the total but the per-theater take.  For “DM2” it was an impressive $20,645.  “Lone Ranger,” battling bad reviews and, with a two and a half hour running time, fewer shows to sell tickets to, made $29 million, with an anemic $7539 per theater.

The movie that performed above expectations — Hollywood expectations, not the predictions of anyone who’s been paying attention to Hart’s mastery of viral marketing and popularity with his audience — was Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, with $10 million in box office receipts and $11,530 per theater.  “The Heat” held on for a strong second-week showing against tough competition.  But perhaps the most impressive ticket sales number of the weekend was for the film that could be this year’s breakout indie, The Way Way Back, starring Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell.  It made a stunning $30,263 per theater.

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