Want to Know the Secret to a Box Office Hit? Get Women on Screen Talking!Suzanne Jannese
Hoorah! A study has proven that if you want box office success — women need to be talking!
Yep. What we do every day — having meaningful, intelligent, witty, and wise conversations — is at the root of all successful movies, according to the findings of FiveThirtyEight, a blog founded by Nate Silver, who let’s not forget predicted state-by-state the correct outcome of the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
He analyzed the ticket sales for 1,615 films all released since 1990 and categorized them on the Bechdel test. To pass the test, the film has to feature at least two women who have a convo about something other than a man. Yes, we CAN talk about more subjects, and we do …
So forget your action-packed, male-dominated, explosion-loving, CGI-filled blockbuster movie, and instead enjoy some great dialogue! Amen to that. Walt Hickey of FiveThirtyEight wrote, “We found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t.”
I would warrant this is because — NEWS FLASH! — women like going to the movies, too! We don’t want cyborgs and explosions. We want drama, and plot, and characterization, and something to sink our teeth into!
So who passed the test? Frozen (yay!), Blue Jasmine, Hustle, August: Osage County, and Noah. These films that passed (which therefore demonstrate greater female character development and involvement), were more profitable, dollar-to-dollar, than all the male-dominated action flicks that studios usually want to invest in. Hollywood are you listening??
Hickey argued that his findings should challenge the mentality epitomized by former Warner Bros. president of production Jeff Robinov, who decreed in 2007 that the studio would no longer make movies with female leads. (Tell that to Sandra Bullock, Jeff! I’ll show you Gravity and I’ll raise you…) Hickey wrote: “Hollywood is the business of making money. Since our data demonstrates that films containing meaningful interactions between women do better at the box office than movies that don’t, it may be only a matter of time before the data of dollars and cents overcomes the rumors and prejudices defining the budgeting process of films for, by, and about women.”
This study makes me want to jump for joy. Why? Because for so long cinema has been dominated by the thought that only men go there. Women are dragged there on dates and otherwise only watch a “chick flick” or a “weep fest.” This idea is not only wrong, it is sexist and insulting. I’m not saying I want endless talking scenes with women discussing hair color, but rather that there’s a whole market of women out there who are avid movie goers and want to be entertained, challenged, and engaged by what is on the screen.
Thankfully, Hickey found more films are passing the Bechdel test than before. However, the level has “flatlined at about half over the last 20 years, and women don’t make up any more than 20 percent of producers, directors, and writers across the board.”
It is time to change. Ladies, let’s get talking — on screen and off — and change this outdated, obsolete view. Oh, and make some $$$ in the process. Hickey just proved we can.