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Suck It, Haters: Female-Led Films Make More Money

Women and Hollywood By Inkoo Kang | Women and Hollywood March 4, 2014 at 12:00PM

20% more money, in fact.
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cate blanchett at the oscars

"Sorry, Cate Blanchett: 'Films with women at the center' don't make money," proclaims an embarrassing editorial by Marcus James Dixon at the Gold Derby today. 

Dixon was referring, of course, to Blanchett's Best Actress speech at the Oscars this weekend, when she chided "those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences." In no uncertain terms, the Blue Jasmine star declared, "They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people." 

Blanchett is absolutely right that movies about women make money. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen were the first and third top-grossers, respectively, of 2013 releases. And it's not just female-led blockbusters that perform well, but mid-budgeters, too. 

In fact, a look at the 100 highest-earning movies of 2013 reveals that movies with a female protagonist earned 20% more on average than movies with a male protagonist. The numbers break down to $116 million on average for female-led movies and $97 million on average for male-led ones. 

Not that there were so many of movies with female protagonists in the first place. Of the 100 movies I ran the numbers on, only 16 had girls or women as the clear main characters: 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Frozen
Gravity
The Heat
Epic
Saving Mr. Banks
Mama
Safe Haven
The Call
August: Osage County
Carrie 
Philomena
Texas Chainsaw 3D
Blue Jasmine
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
The Host 

It's important to note that female-led movies made so much money on average even against high-performing franchise installments like Man of SteelThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Fast and the Furious 6, whose colossal marketing budgets virtually guarantee a monster hit. 

That kind of context is exactly what's lacking in Dixon's piece, which looks at only the top 30 films of last year and concludes that audiences just aren't interested in watching female-led movies, since only four movies made his truncated list. Most damningly, Dixon never mentions that Hollywood's institutional sexism simply means there are a lot fewer movies about women, period, and that many of last year's high-performers were cash-grabbing sequels, most of which are basically contractually obligated to feature male protagonists. 

So unless Dixon is trying out his #slatepitches, I don't know why in the world he would write such a patently flawed and misleading argument in support of an unjust status quo. Let's hope we can get his head out of his ass sometime soon. 

[h/t Box Office Mojo]

This article is related to: Awards, Sexism, Cate Blanchett, Box Office


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