CinemaCon Panel Decries Hollywood's Underserving Women, Chasing Young Males

Interviews
by Anne Thompson
May 2, 2013 4:18 PM
1 Comment
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AM: If you think about the first quarter of this year where the majority of the product was R-rated films, if you were a family and you wanted to get out to our theaters, it was difficult for you to find options and choice. We go back and look at our numbers and you look at the years where we're most successful from a box office perspective, those are the years where you have a lot of choices. It's not a year where 40% is action and 10% is family. The last fourth quarter was very successful. Year after year if we can bring that choice to the film slate we can have a successful box office.

JM: Vanessa when you look at Oscar season you have major studios putting up these big movies that make $100 million and you had adults and grown ups excited about the movies. Do you feel Hollywood has the institutional memory to say let's do that again?

VM: No. Right now there is a lot of fear in the marketplace based on high cost of movies and marketing and the transitional nature of the home entertainment market. I think we're seeing a major shift from DVD sell-through to the rental market for $2.99 a pop and it really does change the economics and so the answer has been towards these seemingly safe choices but they're not actually all that safe because ultimately the answer is always the same: Make good movies and people go, make bad movies and people stay home. Offering up choice is a cycle I hope will come back into fashion but it doesn't feel to me based on the array of films being made now that diversity is considered to be a desirable goal in most studio slates even though it's rewarded time and again in the marketplace.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn


NJ: I'll speak to the positive. I do feel there's a hunger for originality out there. As a new generation of filmmakers come up, we're gonna feel that even more movies should appeal to women. I think we have to look at that audience as not just a single voice, but as a group that wants to see many different kinds of movies that are original. "The Heat" is such a fantastic thing.

PF: I feel like everything's always based on economics in our business and I've been lectured in recent years that there's no international female stars that mean anything in international markets. I'm desperate to figure out how to change that. Where other countries get over that, it's clearly a prejudice against seeing movies with women. I can stop hearing reasons why I can't do something because I can't argue with economic reasons.

JM: I would like to hear you explain Melissa McCarthy. No studio exec would ever say let's group her through the system and make her a star. Why is she a star? Why do people love her?

PF: She's funny and men and women love her equally...She has the possibility to be an international star. I feel I'm not a big fan of romantic comedy because I feel it feels like it's pandering to, "Oh ladies like this." And that's what we tried to break with "Bridesmaids" and now "The Heat." Breaking genres, that to me is the goal. Let's replace the characters with women, not making it with women acting like guys. They do that with raunchy female comedies, so it's just continually adjusting them. There need to be more female stars. There aren't enough. It's a self-perpetuating problem, there should be more female stars. Like Kristen, Kristen was not known as a movie star. Show off her wares and then she became a bigger star and so did Melissa. So we need to create films where that can happen.

AM: I think she's very good at what she does. From a female perspective, she's real life. When you look at her she's a lot more representative of the rest of the population and that's important.

JM: And she's over 40. There was a story we thought about doing in THR that we never did after the presidential election. The morning after the election there was all this analysis and the GOP woke up stunned and their core audience was much smaller than they thought, and they had Obama win 90% of the black vote, 70% of the Latino vote. Now you see the GOP have done a lot of soul searching and they're trying to figure out how to broaden their message. They've cornered themselves and they need to get out of the corner. The story we wanted to do was Hollywood's lessons from the election. In some ways Hollywood is in the same situation, you've had many of the same people in power for 20 years if not longer, it is pretty homogeneous and to me it seems there is money being left on the table everywhere if you are making a product that does not appeal to all those people who say voted for Obama or for whom the GOP was not a candidate. Do you agree? Everyone is blown away that people go to the latest Tyler Perry movie. Every time a female movie does well, "oh my god, surprise!" You find a movie over-indexed with Latinos, huge surprise. If you are Hollywood studio how are you starting to get your message across to a larger audience?
End of Watch


NJ: Our marketing knowledge and tools, we have far greater data available to us than we use because nobody's willing to make their movie the guinea pig for what would happen if we tried a more targeted approach, no filmmaker wants to have a movie where they decide to forgo a large TV audience to prove they are the audience for this. After you've killed yourself on a movie you don't want to be the guinea pig. If we start to do what you see on the web all the time, which is being able to spread the niche to find an audience, if we begin to look for an audience through a narrower and more efficient form of marketing, it would reduce the cost of marketing the movie and the barrier of entry for some of the movies that might cost as much but which serve segments of the audience without having to try to chase the four quadrant. And I love the 4-quadrant film. The best movies will work for quite a few people regardless if its targeted toward them or not but for some of the kinds of shots you're taking. We need a more targeted and tactical form of marketing in order to take that shot and yet no one wants to be the guinea pig.

PF: There needs to be more product, if there's a way to get middle to lower budget films that aren't arthouse films. That's like $32.5 million so it wasn't a giant risk, so that you're able to make more, you've got to flood more of them out there to get them economically going.

NJ: We need a diverse group of people around the table who are living life in different ways and experiencing different people in different ways so those audiences that are emerging don't sneak up on you. So Amy if you had your choice, it's July 4th weekend and you had two giant franchises at a 12 screen multiplex would you rather have six of the movies that are going to drive huge revenue or have a third of those movies that might not do as well but will bring people to the theater?

AM: We want the movies that are going to bring the most box office for that weekend. When you think about our entire film slate and movies that are released primarily in that summer season and in the holiday season, there is a ton of opportunity for moviegoing choices and available screens when you think about a 12 month release schedule so many times we are focusing on those weekends and I understand why franchises are scheduled during those time periods. but we're talking about availability of content. If a movie is good they're going to go in January just like they go in June so we have a lot of screens...

JM: You've raised an interesting point with our film reporter. You talked about "End of Watch" which did quite well, when you saw it you thought why wasn't this marketed to women? There's a great storyline in there where you could have brought in all these other people.

AM: As a consumer when I watch some of the trailers or some of the marketing for End of Watch, I assumed I would go because my husband would want to see it and I would enjoy it. But there were so many aspects of that film that were appealing to an Hispanic audience a female audience, just a much broader demographic that we probably targeted in the marketing effort. It's picking across the moviegoing public and how the films are presented and if i t were broader sometimes we could draw in a larger audience.

JM: Geena shared some discouraging statistics. In America 40% of managerial jobs are held by women by in Hollywood the numbers have stayed the same for about 20 years. In the DGA 13% are women, writers %13 and %62 of SAG roles go to men. Nina you were at Disney, what goes in in these discussions in the executive suites? How present is it in the minds of executives that women are underrepresented or is it just one of those things where it's been the situation so long it's not felt?

NJ: I actually think that Geena's work has actually had an enormous effect. Part of it is just education and when I was at Disney we were the first studio that Geena and Stacy came to speak to. We were the maiden voyage and it was a mind blower: those statistics were incredible and they were not known. Part of it is you're only 8 years into an information campaign which is enormously powerful. It is partly about just paying attention. Here's a movie about fish or furniture and the fish or furniture are men. It's so random and it's just not noticed a lot of the time. Part of it is just getting people to notice and therefore do something about it, and I think part of it is having to bang people over the head with the success of movies. There have been an extraordinary number of successful movies driven by women and women's interest, going back to "Titanic," because women will go in groups and will see it over and over again, whether it's a family movie which is one of the more consistently reliable genres for communal viewing, to go to a movie and see a movie with your family is still one of the true pleasures of family life and it's still deeply felt as a different experience than watching a movie on your couch.
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1 Comment

  • Brian | May 3, 2013 5:04 PMReply

    I’m glad Janice Min name-checked Tyler Perry in the course of this discussion. No matter what one thinks of his films, they do speak to a niche that was once filled by the genre of “women’s pictures” that flourished from the 1930s to the 1950s. I tend to miss those films, having seen so many on TV when I was growing up and developing an appreciation for Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Lizabeth Scott, Lana Turner, et al, even though my time in theaters tended to be spent with friends seeing John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Sean Connery, etc. Over the last couple of decades I kept wondering why we weren’t seeing new versions of the women’s melodramas with such powerhouse actresses as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver, Geena Davis, Angela Bassett, etc. An update of IMITATION OF LIFE revised into a tale of a single yuppie mom and a Latina nanny and their daughters’ upbringing could touch on a lot of current issues while still entertaining and engaging an audience that cuts across racial lines. Or stories of black women’s lives that aren’t skewed by Tyler Perry’s somewhat narrow philosophical bent. How awesome would a remake of PAID IN FULL (1950) be, with Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence playing the roles once played by Lizabeth Scott and Diana Lynn? Or Kerry Washington and Zoe Saldana? (If you're not familiar with PAID IN FULL, I urge you to look it up.) The possibilities are endless, waiting to be realized by a class of writers who can think beyond comic books.

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