Following the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, Cinderella and Insurgent, the National Association of Theater Owners chief John Fithian has said 2015 will be the biggest year ever at the international box office and women are the reason why.
“Research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has shown that only 12 percent of leading roles in 2014 went to women even though women bought half of all movie tickets. In 2015 women get a little more of the limelight,” Fithian continued. “Three successful movies so far this year had women in leading roles and sold 60% or more tickets to women. And we have so much more to come, with big female roles in horror, comedy, science-fiction, animation, family, western, thriller and action. Personally, I am so pleased that my daughter can see more women in leading roles than ever before.”
A quick glance at upcoming films shows he’s not kidding. Age of Adaline looks to be the top new release next weekend, and May will feature Carey Mulligan romance Far From the Maddening Crowd, Kristen Wiig comedy Welcome to Me, Anne Fletcher-directed action comedy Hot Pursuit starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara and Pitch Perfect 2, followed up in the summer by Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig’s Spy and female-oriented fan service film Magic Mike XXL.
So it’s true that women have had and will continue to have a much larger than normal impact on the box office. The next question is what it will do for film quality, which is a tricky question to answer because most of this is created by marketing, which has little to do with the quality of these films. All three of the above movies have comparable domestic grosses at this point — all well beyond $100 million. One was decent, one was flatly sexist and one was decent despite being flatly sexist.
The ultimate goal is for Hollywood to stop treating women as a specialty audience and making movies just especially for them that are otherwise terrible, paving the way for movies that appeal equally to all genders and races and we’ll all drive our zero-emission cars the theaters and hold hands and blow bubbles and stick flowers in the barrels all the policemen’s guns when they try to put us down. Needless to say, that world is a bit far off. But strong, consistent showings by movies made for women reminding everyone how much money there is to be made is a step in the right direction.