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

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by Oliver Lyttelton
July 2, 2012 1:54 PM
19 Comments
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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.

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.

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19 Comments

  • Eve | July 5, 2012 2:50 PMReply

    Why do people assume women prefer romance/drama over action/sci-fi flicks? I personally would enjoy an epic sci-fi movie much more than a cheesy romance, and so would a lot of my female friends. What I think the studios are doing wrong, is disregarding their female viewers and trying to objectify women every minute they can. Nothing turns me off more than going to watch a highly anticipated sci-fi/action movie, only to see random, unnecessary, objectified half naked women whose only purpose there is to provide eye candy. Not to mention the lack of strong female leads (and if there are any, they're usually portrayed as hot, feminine and seductive).

    This is the problem with movies supposedly targeted towards teenage boys. It isn't the action, the special effects, etc. -- who wouldn't love that? It's the tired old formula of male lead + hot female sex object(s). Especially if women make up a good half of viewers for these types of movies, why are studios still catering to only half of the audience, instead of all men AND women? I would pay anything to watch a large scale production that has the exciting plotline of Contraband and cool special effects of Transformers where the main lead is a woman -- who's cast for her ability to act, not her hotness -- and lots and lots of hot male co-stars, with maybe a few random shirtless scenes. You know, the same things guys usually get to enjoy in a movie. But of course, that's never going to happen.

    Which is why I think Magic Mike is so popular. It may not have the best plot or effects, but it does have the hot men in thongs, which is very uncommon for women to see. For men, seeing half naked women is like an every movie occurrence. They don't even have to go to a movie about female strippers to see some skin -- just go to the beach. Some bikini bottoms are as small as thongs. For women, we rarely ever get to see hot men strutting around in tight little underwear, in movies or anywhere else, so the first chance we get, we will jump at it like it's the best thing we've ever seen. And it probably is too, unless we've had the privilege to fly to Las Vegas for Chippendales.

  • Alan | July 3, 2012 2:17 AMReply

    "Discuss: Does 'Magic Mike' Prove That Female Audiences Are Now More Reliable Than Hollywood's Staple Teen Boy Targets?" Nope: it just proves that if a product has a clear audience, is marketed well and delivers on its promises, then it will succeed. Same with 'Ted'.

  • Stephen | July 2, 2012 5:19 PMReply

    What's with all the "born up/borne out" in this article?

  • AS | July 2, 2012 4:19 PMReply

    But isn't it sad that these are the kinds of films that women go to see? The reason that the Spider Man film seems to be successful with women is that it puts more of an emphasis on romance, which re-enforces the idea that women only turn out for romantic comedies/dramas or emotionally manipulative movies (The Help). I don't know, that's kinda sad if you ask me.

    As far as Magic Mike is concerned, expect to see a significant drop in its second week. While the film was marketed as a "ladies night out" type of movie, it's actually more of a guys movie (which shouldn't be surprising, given the fact that it was directed by Steven Soderbergh). As a guy, it's depressing to see women flocking to godawful flicks like Sex and the City and the Twilight series instead of quality films directed by and starring women (Wendy and Lucy, We Need to Talk About Kevin). You could, of course, make the argument that men go to see just as much crap as women, but at least men will go to see at least one Dark Knight for every Transformers. The same really can't be said for women.

  • pro | July 6, 2012 4:06 PM

    "Well then in that case they are just simply selling out." What was Nora Ephron selling out exactly? The point is she was one of the few actually able to make relatively big-budget Hollywood movies, because she followed a traditional formula. "women do not turn out to see quality films ABOUT women." Quality movies about women are not made in Hollywood. Snow White and the Huntsman is not a "quality movie about women," in the eyes of *many* people. The B Cinemascore means general *like,* not love, and critics weren't very approving of the film either. It's amazing it made what it did. And if that got made for that budget, and was directed at women (more like teenagers, but whatever), why in your eyes couldn't a female equivalent of The Dark Knight get made? A movie that's generally praised by critics, loved by audiences -- with a female lead? As for Brave, Cars 2's drop off was 60%. This one was the same as Wall-E's: 49%. Brave's total after 2 weekends: $131.7 million. Wall-E's total after 2 weekends: $127.2 million. Either way, Brave was aimed at children and families, not *women.*

  • AS | July 6, 2012 9:58 AM

    @Pro: Also, Pixar's latest film, Brave, had a big drop off in its second week (the biggest in recent Pixar history).

  • AS | July 6, 2012 9:55 AM

    @Pro: Well then in that case they are just simply selling out. I mentioned those 2 films not just because they were directed by women, but because they were examples of quality films about women. The fact they were also made by women is ultimately not relevant to my point. Again, my point is that women do not turn out to see quality films ABOUT women, so there has never been, and probably never will be, a female equivalent to The Dark Knight. Women would simply not show up to see it. For example, Snow White and the Huntsman was a big budget summer film directed at women which will end up losing money (after you adjust for marketing, it has a budget of around $340 million. It's made $336 million worldwide, which the studio only gets half of so it's still in the hole $172 million). Now you and I might not think that it was a great movie, but the fact is it got a B Cinemascore. Which means the audience liked it but women just didn't show up in droves to see it.

  • pro | July 4, 2012 11:03 PM

    @AS: It seems you have things backwards. They have to make the same crap over and over *in order* to get "the power to make films that reach a broad audience." It's not like the studio says, "whatever you come up with, we'll finance it!" And studio heads obviously have less of a problem with certain women directing formulaic romantic comedies. And yes, you *were* talking about "films directed by and starring women (Wendy and Lucy, We Need to Talk About Kevin)." So anyway, what movie could actually be called the female equivalent of The Dark Knight -- an equally good movie with a similar-sized budget -- that because women didn't go see it, it flopped?

  • AS | July 3, 2012 5:07 PM

    @Zack ...what? Men aren't males and women aren't females? Okay.... @Pro First off, when women do have the power to make films that reach a broad audience (Nora Ephron, Catherine Hardwicke) they choose to make the same type of films again and again. And besides, I'm not even talking about female directors. I'm talking about films about women. Doesn't matter whether a man directs it or a woman. The films that are successful are all unimaginative and deeply flawed (Julie and Julia, Sex and the City, You've Got Mail etc.).

  • Zack | July 3, 2012 2:42 PM

    I've never tried to reason with anyone who refers to women as "females", and I'm not about to start.

  • pro | July 3, 2012 2:09 PM

    How many female directors get to make female-driven films with the marketing budgets of the ones you mentioned? How many theaters carried Wendy and Lucy compared with how many carried Casino Royale?

  • AS | July 3, 2012 11:41 AM

    @Oliver Drive made $76 million worldwide on a $16 million budget. That's no Transformers, but that is still pretty damn successful. But I could still name countless male targeted films that made bank. If we can agree that Quentin Tarantino films are geared toward a male audience, than we can surely count all of his films. The Town, Casino Royale, The Bourne Trilogy, American Gangster, No Country for Old Men, Collateral, Man on Fire, The Matrix, Minority Report, Gangs of New York, Training Day, Gladiator.... those are all quality films, geared toward men, that made serious cash.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | July 3, 2012 5:36 AM

    @AS The Departed aside, none of those made any money. Cinephiles saw them, sure, but they were far from hits. Warrior is the male equivalent of Wendy And Lucy. Which is the only time I'll ever write that sentence, i suspect.

  • AS | July 3, 2012 1:12 AM

    Your grammar is so poor that I can't even make out your last sentence. I wasn't referring to "comic book" movies when I cited Dark Knight. I could have just as easily mentioned Drive, Warrior, Animal Kingdom, The Departed and so on. I could name a dozen quality films that are geared toward a male audience. I couldn't do the same for females. But please, prove me wrong, compile a list.

  • Zack | July 3, 2012 12:36 AM

    "Men have better taste than bitches because while men go to movies based on toys, they often go to movies based on comic books". How insightful and fun to be around you seem.

  • AS | July 2, 2012 10:23 PM

    I'm saying that the female driven films that women go to see are crap.

  • pro | July 2, 2012 5:22 PM

    Are you implying that Wendy and Lucy is the female equivalent of The Dark Knight? That it's women's fault that they're not doing similar business? Because you should realize that's bullshit. Anyway, even if The Dark Knight was as bad as Transformers, a lot of guys would still go see it... because shit blows up in it. And you know what? Women would too. Because as everyone knows, women will go see a "guy movie" and not be worried what people will think, whereas men are terrified that people will call their masculinity into question.

  • Archie Leach | July 2, 2012 3:14 PMReply

    Nice dubious conclusions based on a shaky hypothesis given the pot smoking foul-mouthed teddy bear flick aimed at those teen boys ran just ran roughshod at the box office over the stripper chick flick and the last time I checked the crap transformers movies that are aimed at those teen boys have far-and-away made MUCH more monies at the same box offices than the chick flick crap twilight movies.

    But hey anyone can want to prove a point by looking for the "facts" they choose huh?

  • zith | July 2, 2012 2:06 PMReply

    brenda andrews? heh.

    (brenda chapman - replaced by mark andrews)

    hurry up and fix it then delete this

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