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Discuss: Does 'Magic Mike' Prove That Female Audiences Are Now More Reliable Than Hollywood's Staple Teen Boy Targets?

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 2, 2012 at 1:54PM

For those who follow that sort of thing, this weekend was one of the more interesting in a while at the domestic box office. There were four films that broke the $25 million barrier in the same weekend, a first in history, for instance. There was the unusually precipitious drop for "Brave," a worrying sign for the once-untouchable animation factory. There was the usually impressive expansion for "Moonrise Kingdom."

Of course, women have been behind plenty of box office smashes in history; we're pretty sure thirteen year old boys weren't behind the audience of "Gone With The Wind," which, adjusted for inflation, is the biggest film in history. "Titanic" was another similar success. But still these kind of films remained the outliers, and the failures of films like "Catwoman" and "Aeon Flux" led to some studio executive types declaring that any film that wasn't a rom-com led by a woman was pretty much doomed to failure.

Last year was full of the usual sequels and superhero fare, but it was worth noting that of the three original films in the top 20 domestic grossers, two -- "The Help" and "Bridesmaids," which each took a whopping $170 million -- were aimed at women (animation "Rio" was the third). So far this year, "The Vow" and "Think Like A Man" (which connected massively with another underserved demographic, African-American audiences) have been big hits, and "Magic Mike," while frontloaded, should join them in the upper reaches of the yearly chart, and films like "Hope Springs" (which should capitalize on the same audience that made "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" an astonishing sleeper hit), "Pitch Perfect," "Les Miserables," "The Great Gatsby" and "The Guilt Trip" all have strong chances of joining them.

And as if to prove those executives all those years ago deeply wrong, four of the biggest action-adventure films of the year -- "Brave," "Snow White & The Huntsman," "Prometheus" and the massive "The Hunger Games" -- featured strong, impressive female leads. Even "The Avengers" featured a well-rounded female character, and it converted into 40% of the audience on opening weekend being women. Assuming that carried across the film's entire run, that translates into something like $240 million worth of ticket sold. And all this while films like "Battleship" and "John Carter" have tanked.

The Amazing Spider-Man Emma Stone Spiderman

And this week's "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a good indication of where things might be headed. Early reports when it was announced that the film was going to be rebooted were that Sony were aiming for a "Twilight" style take, and that's actually kind of borne out by Marc Webb's film, which, as our review said, fares much better with the romance than it does with the action. The comic book geeks haven't been responding especially well to the film, but anecdotally, we know that women have been more impressed. We're not sure we'd go quite as far as to say that it's the first superhero film aimed at women (marketing has been chasing kids -- and overgrown kids -- more), but it does feel like that's the film that Webb set out to make.

It would be nice if a single one of the female-driven hits was actually directed by a woman ("Brave" was co-helmed by Brenda Chapman, but she was fired halfway through the shoot), but we'll take the baby steps for now. And while the myth that female-driven event movies are box office poison has finally been put to bed, it should be noted that audiences won't tolerate being condescended to (please see the lukewarm reception to "What To Expect When You're Expecting" -- though, much of that marketing seemed overly focused on getting dudes in the theater, which also may have been an issue). And we increasingly feel that the evidence is there that if studios want to sleep a little better at night, it's worth them easing off the relentless targeting of teenage boys, and start courting the ladies. But what do you think? Is this summer merely an oddity? Are we reading too much into this all? Weigh in in the comments section.

This article is related to: Magic Mike, Features, The Amazing Spider-Man, Hunger Games

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