All the recent talk regarding the future of actresses as leads in commercial films got me wondering. What’s the real story? Is it true that women dont open films well enough, that serious female-oriented work doesnt benefit Hollywood?
It would take a semester of research to go through the voluminous stats and calculate the effectiveness of marketing strategies. And, most certainly, that should be done if we are to come to a real understanding of this situation. But, in the process of conducting a very unscientific and admittedly cursory study, here’s what I found.
It’s is true that Hilary Swanks “The Reaping,” Nicole Kidmans “The Invasion,” and Jodie Fosters “The Brave One” did not fare well at the box office. In a comment issued to my colleague Anne Thompson at Variety, Warner Brothers Jeff Robinov admitted that we didnt get the reviews we had expected for “The Brave One.”
But, interestingly, George Clooneys “Michael Clayton,” which opened to mostly positive reviews (albeit not one from me), was also a financial disappointment for that studio–despite its heavy hitting male star.
So, what are the biggest earners in movie history? Virtually all are male-oriented action and special effect driven movies or animated family films. That said, number one, continues to be “Titanic,” which, along with a spectacular sinking ship, offers Kate Winslet in a passionate romance with Leonardo DiCaprio. And, number 50 on the all-time chart, according to BoxOfficeGuru.com, is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the little femme-written, directed and starring movie that could and did earn $246.40 million.
Moreover, female-oriented pictures do seem to have the potential to pay back their investment, at least in terms of award recognition. In just the past two years, modest earners such as the femme-driven “Notes on a Scandal,” “North Country” and “Mrs. Henderson Presents” have rewarded their producers with countless nominations, including several for the biggest boy in town, Oscar.
While I might prefer to see more women on screen sooner rather than later, there are many pictures in the femme flicks pipeline. Slated for 2008 release: the best selling “The Lovely Bones” and sequels for “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “Sin City” (“A Dame to Kill For,” promising Brittany Murphy and Rosario Dawson kicking butt). The inevitable Anna Nicole movie has already filmed, and were getting daily reports from the set of the new “Sex and the City” reunion. The always popular Julia Roberts has a few projects in development–other than her real life pregnancy. So, too, do Jennifer Anniston, Nicole Kidman, Hilary Swank, Naomi Watts, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Drew Barrymore and Tina Fey. Sigourney Weaver may not have the power to get another “Alien” chapter green lit, but she and James Cameron have reunited for a different sci-fi thriller, “Avatar,” due May 2009. And theres light at the end of this tunnel for Jodie Foster: shes in pre-production to direct and co-star with Robert DeNiro on a drama called “Sugarland.”
Additionally, Warner Brothers is soon to release two films directed by women: Alison Eastwood’s “Rails & Ties” opens October 26 and Kirsten Sheridan’s “August Rush” is due on November 21.
Some of these femme made and/or oriented movies will be good. Some will not. But they are being made and released–along with a lot more male-oriented pictures. Whether they make money (and therefore, encourage the funding of similar projects in the future) or not is, ultimately, not only up to the studios, the critics and media, it’s also very much up to the ticket buying public.
What are your thoughts?