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

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

“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]

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Comments

Nathan W

Top films are all male protagonists and any top grossing female film has mediocre film rating. Nothing to brag about haha

shawn sokolsky

I think that shows that as a society people are more accepting of women in film and women having power in film as well. Also that women can be just as exciting and powerful of a protagonist as any man would play. This is a good sign, because it is showing that people are supporting woman protagonist film by going to them and making them some of the highest money makers, shows that male gaze is not as much of a thing as it was in the past

vp19

Up in Hollywood heaven, I can imagine Carole, Myrna, Bette, Claudette, etc., applauding this article — but, they add, "make sure they get scripts every bit as good as the best we received."

ashleyarrington.

"this is me at my most sadistic-and truthful."

onlyyesterday

I know this is a positive piece. But even in a positive slant and with the weight of facts behind it just makes me so sad – I do not want to push for equality in a creative medium off the basis of its 'financial viability'.

Meanwhile over in the games industry this week we have Ubisoft telling the world 'women characters are too expensive a feature' to include in their lead franchises.

Davey

Bragging about making money on INDIEWIRE makes no sense.

Truthsayer

So are you saying that you would like to have more female actresses play characters that are in some kind of psychotic phase and/or breakdown just so more people can come and watch woman stereotypically portray woman?The movies that did gross a lot already had a following so of course those will make a lot of money.Women usually watch a movie more than twice thats why top grossing movies lie Frozen and Hunger Games make so much money.Not because they're so good but because they exploit womans' emotional attachment and make money off of them.Movies that have woman just as regular people but not as "women" like Alien or the women in Terminator set a good example showing that it does not matter the gender as long as you are a good actor.What you are saying in your article is that woman should keep playing the main character in horror movies and YA novel adaptation just to show that women in movies make more money than men and expand the types of movies woman should be put in.You are such an idiot.

Ingrid

Honestly, I think it's more about the film than about who is the main character. The problem is that they do not try they are wont to do scripts on the men and the writers are men! Not because it is not profitable, it's just how they do it. If there were more films centered on women, I guarantee they would earn money! Lots of money!

Woody T

Both analyses stink. His, for the reason you mentioned (and others… damn, what an awful column), but yours is off as well. You're comparing 84 films to 16. The fact that studios are more hesitant to green light female-centric films means that those films which do get produced have already gone through a selection process that the others haven't. In other words, we would expect that the film which are female-centric to have a higher average return, because we would expect that, as a result of the discriminatory green-lighting process, those which are green lit will be of a higher quality on average. Thus, the disparity in returns is not caused by the fact that they are female centered, but on the fact a film has to be objectively better when it is female centered in order to be made in the first place. (This is not to support the discrimination in any way, only to note that your analysis is mistaking correlation with causation.)

That being said, underlying point–that there should not be this discrimnation against female centered projects and that the discrimination is harmful–is absolutely true.

Gina

What about Twilight? I know it's very cool to mock this franchise, but it was highly, excessively profitable. Twilight showed the power of female audience to the movie industry.

    Jim

    Twilight just shows that females are idiots and will see anything.

Maria Giese

LOVE this!

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