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Bridesmaids’ Box Office Achievements: Analysis

Bridesmaids' Box Office Achievements: Analysis

Thompson on Hollywood

We all know that Bridesmaids showed sexy legs at the summer box office, busting down doors for femme movies as well as breakouts Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Anthony D’Alessandro digs into what the numbers really mean.

The Universal sleeper has made back six times its $26.2 million opening (or $159 million) at a production cost of $33 million. It’s the highest-grossing Judd Apatow film of all time, beating his domestic directorial high Knocked Up ($153 million), and he didn’t even direct. All around, it’s an anomaly for an R-rated film with female appeal.

But setting its cost/profit ratio aside, Bridesmaids has hit a ceiling at the domestic B.O. It isn’t going to outstrip There’s Something About Mary ($176.5 million), another summer comedy which lured both sexes and spurred the gross-out comedy trend, nor will it topple the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, My Big Fat Greek Wedding ($241.4 million).  Naturally, Universal and Judd Apatow could care less about these benchmarks – they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Clearly, the next step for any R-rated Bridesmaids wannabe is to pull in more males in order to gain entry into the $200-million testosterone tentpole club, taking a seat next to The Hangover ($277.3 million) or Beverly Hills Cop ($234.8 million). Is $150 million the best that this genre can score?
Nicole Sperling points out that in order for more female comedies to get made, boys need to post turn-out ratios on par with the numerical stats that girls register at a guy pic: see The Hangover Part II’s 40% female demo.  Bridesmaids skewed a bit more male in its opening weekend at 35% versus the typical 20% for a so-called women’s picture.    
Despite the decent holds for Bridesmaids, Universal chairman Adam Fogelson admitted to Sperling that the audience “didn’t get more female over time. It got more older.”   As L.A. Weekly’s Karina Longworth wrote in her review, it was always intentional that Bridesmaids “tosses meat to the traditional male comedy audience, while…win (ing) over ladies who look to romcoms for self-identification.”  Studios rarely, if ever, provide film demos beyond opening weekend. The trick is that women are more able to identify with men than men are willing or able to identify with women. Therein lies the rub for outperforming Bridesmaids current b.o. cap.
Variety recently reported that Bridesmaids triggered a greenlight for Wiig’s passion project Imogene.  The piece also cited Bridesmaids as the sixth-highest grossing romantic comedy of all-time.  It’s actually eighth (still good) in a list that starts with Greek Wedding ($241.4 million), Wedding Crashers ($209.3 million), What Women Want ($182.8 million), Hitch ($179.5 million), Pretty Woman ($178.4 million), There’s Something About Mary ($176.5 million) and The Proposal ($164 million).
There’s enough life in Bridesmaids to outflank Proposal, but unlike most of the top-grossing romantic comedies above, which were largely driven by their male leads (i.e. Will Smith, Mel Gibson, Owen Wilson), Bridesmaids was carried by its ensemble of women. And the all-time champ Greek Wedding clearly sold itself as an all-out chick pic. The overnight success of the film’s lead/screenwriter Nia Vardalos was a tale of female empowerment and recognition in Hollywood.  More than Bridesmaids, Greek Wedding proves that a female-driven comedy with an unknown cast has the potential to deliver busloads of older women to the multiplex and two century ticket sales – but only if it isn’t raunchy and rated PG.
If a bawdy female comedy is going to play to greater heights than Bridesmaids, it may to have to water down its filthy hijinks or up the ante for the guys.  In terms of the genre’s future and whether copycats will prevail, there are a number of opinions ranging from producer David Friendly’s optimistic “Where’s Our Bridesmaids?” POV to Geena Davis’ down-to-earth tone: After the release of Thelma and Louise the town and the media predicted a flurry of female buddy road movies and “there were none, none, none.”

The opening of Bridesmaids prompted DreamWorks to greenlight the Reese Witherspoon produced Who Invited Her? about a woman who tags along to a bachelor party (after DreamWorks C.E.O. Stacey Snider told The New Yorker in April that “girls revealing themselves as candid and raunchy doesn’t appeal to guys at all…And girls aren’t that into it, either.”)  On the other hand, Natalie Portman’s Oscar win did not move her stoner comedy Best Buds or Superbad girl project BYO into production.
Agents are ahead of the curve when it comes to harnessing cinema taste, so clearly, they have already fostered a bad-girl atmosphere with this year’s crop: No Strings Attached ($70.7 million), Bad Teacher ($81.3 million) and the upcoming titles Friends With Benefits and Anna Faris’ What’s Your Number? (Horrible Bosses, including Jennifer Aniston, looks to make $40 million-plus by the end of today, pacing ahead of Bridesmaids’ first week of $38.8 million).
Gross-out comedies thrived for approximately a decade, starting and ending with the Farrelly Brothers’ respective projects Mary in 1998 and The Heartbreak Kid ($36.8 million) in 2007.  Gag overindulgence, like Tom Green’s Freddy Got Fingered ($14.3 million), killed the gross-out film. If the genre exists today, it’s in hybrid form as seen the output of Adam McKay and Todd Phillips.
As long as producers and studios keep their costs as low as they do on horror films, the raunchy femme laffer genre could live on for quite a while – that is until it completely offends everyone .

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Raunchy comedies way aside– I think the town still makes female empowerment tales, often times they’re award-worthy: Silkwood, Norma Rae, Thelma and Louise, The Brave, Black Swan…but I understand your point, they make some pretty dumb ones. But it looks like audiences are getting smarter: “Something Borrowed” failed to find a wide audience, the Tom Hanks-with-a-girl formula doesn’t work anymore.


You made good points, Anthony! (although I would replace “Black Swan” with “Juno” on your list :p)
I also agree that female-driven films does indeed have more and more box office appeal, and many female audience are getting smarter; the only matter is whether many studios execs would dump their prejudice and make more female-driven films that respect female empowerment.


Yes. If Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler want to make female-driven films, studios will finance those films because studios want to build relationships with Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler. (“The House Bunny” would not get made without Adam Sandler’s support) But in most case, I don’t believe that the success of “Bridesmaids” would lead studios to make more female-driven comedies that truly encourage female empowerment, becuase many powerful men in Hollywood still don’t want to treat women with respect; studios will just make more ‘fake’ female-driven comedies like “The Ugly Truth” . (My friend said to me that even female executives or producers tend to put actresses in the roles that are based on men’s fantasies. I believe him; otherwise, Columbia Pictures would not make “The Ugly Truth”.)

If we wish to see more female-driven films to get made by studios, maybe we have to help more actresses and female filmmakers to overcome their disadvantages in Hollywood at first.


Given how Judd has shepherded “Bridesmaids,” I would bet the ranch he either makes a sequel, or another film of its type. Also, just a modification on what I wrote above — “Horrible Bosses” has made $42.4 million in its first week. More than Bridesmaids, but again it’s geared toward males despite Jennifer Aniston’s burlesque. I’m curious if it holds less than 40%.


I think that even after the success of “Bridesmaids”, major studios won’t make a lot more female-driven comedies that would pass the Bechdel Test. According to the New Yorker article you posted, one top studio executive said that “the decision to make movies is mostly made by men, and if men don’t have to make movies about women they won’t.”
It may explain why Natalie Portman’s two female comedy projects still couldn’t get made by major studios (even thought I’m sure that she will get indie financing).

On the other hand, many actresses are still treated unfairly in Hollywood. David Poland said that “If every actress told The Truth about her experiences, more than half the directors, producers, and execs in town would not be allowed to work again after the avalanche of lawsuits.”

If many powerful men in Hollywood still don’t want to treat actresses with respect, I don’t think that they would want to make female-driven comedies that would pass the Bechdel Test. (Instead, they would only make more ‘fake’ female-driven films like “Basic Instinct”, “The Ugly Truth” and “The Proposal”.)

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