Tag Archives: Women’s cinema

Women Make Good Box Office


SusanS_06-09-97 (Photo credit: markbult)

By Susan Cartsonis

Telling stories from the female perspective is good box office.  However, only 16 percent of movies are made specifically with women in mind even though half of the ticket buying public is female, which means Hollywood is missing the bet financially—with a few notable exceptions that prove my point.

There are many reasons why there’s a dearth of movies made for women: it has to do with how women are treated in the business in the boardroom, the pressures and logistics of the business, and “conventional wisdom” as opposed to facts and the reality of the changing audience landscape. 

Note to the studios:  stop trying to get the boys back and go after the women.

Here are some facts:  not only do women account for more than 50% of the ticket buying audience, they often choose the movie a couple sees, and choose movies for their children. 

Here are some movie marketer/distributor observations:  Women are often repeat viewers, and view cross-generationally – as they did for The Princess Diaries which was made for grannies and five-year olds but all the women of in between ages came too, making it a hit that grossed $126M in world wide box office—although it cost just $26M to make, and.  Women view therapeutically too—how many women do you know who watch Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, or Brigitte Jones’ Diary repeatedly and fight over who the best Mr. Darcy really is?  Movies for women don’t have to be expensive because they’re more “people powered” than special effects-powered.  Think Twilight:  it cost  $37M and made a $384M return!  Or The Help: a $22M investment that generated $180M at the box office – so far!  That compared to a Transformers or Spiderman or Pirates Of The Carribean – which we may love but they cost well over $100M to make and don’t have nearly the profit margin of a well-made romantic comedy.

Here’s what I know in my bones:  Women have a need to hear their stories told in an authentic way.  And they’re also interested in the inner lives of men.  I know because I’m an audience member as well as a movie-maker and there are too many Friday nights when I feel that there’s nothing I really want to see.  Nothing that speaks to me personally.  And if a movie is made that speaks to me, my friends and I throw a party and go en masse!

I’ve made well over a billion dollars in movie ticket sales as an executive and a producer (leaving aside the huge ancillary markets that include DVDs that would triple the amount of money made).  I’ve done this by making movies from a female perspective, often with female writers, subject matter, and directors.  So I don’t believe that the female audience isn’t a good audience.  I know it’s a great audience.

I’ve had to fight to get a lot of these movies made and marketed well.   I’ve had to fight for marketing dollars when I should be able to use my energies to make more and better movies rather than to justify the market.  I think, no, I know that within the business we can and should change the way we perceive women and entertainment for women.

There are great champions for the female perspective such as Geraldine Laybourne, the founder of Nickelodeon, Oxygen and the Chairman of Alloy Entertainment.  She told me that she feels that we need more female media company owners.  In other words, women who have the power and support to “green light” material that is unique and speaks to the hearts and minds of women.   Men who run the major media companies give the go-ahead to projects that speak to them most viscerally—and I have observed that the visceral overrules any number crunching a company engages in to predict success.

Clearly, telling stories to women is good business.  And when men come too—well it just adds to the profitability.  Look at how well Bridesmaids did. Here’s to Judd Apatow for extending a hand to his fellow comic geniuses Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumulo and helping Bridesmaids get made.  But look at what a well-documented struggle this was!

The studio seemed afraid that men would stay away from a movie that showed the iconography of a line of bridesmaids on a movie poster, so they seemingly marketed almost exclusively to men pre-release.  In fact, men went in groups, a phenomenon that they called “wolf-packs”.

Anecdotally, I found that a lot of women stayed away that first weekend thinking that the movie was purely a gross out comedy, until they heard Bridesmaids had romantic and emotional content with female-friendly humor.  When they did go, they found exceptionally original moments like the “cupcake making scene”.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say:  had the studio done more marketing to women pre-release, the film, (which cost  $32 M and made $169 M) would have made 20 to 30 percent more money because women would have come in even larger numbers that opening weekend.  And I’m going to go out on another limb and say that men probably loved the cupcake making scene—because it’s a little peephole into the inner lives of women.  They want to know what makes us tick, particularly if it’s told in an original way.   When we did the market research on an extraordinarily female oriented and female marketed film (it was even an Oprah’s Book Club pick!) we found that men rated the film even higher than women.  Turns out men want to know about the inner lives of women, too.

So my solution?  Get out and vote with your dollar, see women’s movies.  Women drive over 60% of messaging in social media—talk about the movies you like and encourage your friends to go.  If you’re a film maker, keep making films and find a way to invest in your own work financially so that you can drive the creative and financial decision making process.  Your voice and your perspective are legit and profound and powerful—and will find an audience.

Susan Cartsonis is a producer and former studio executive. In 2000, she was named one of the top five grossing producers of the year, thanks to her box-office-record-breaking film What Women Want starring Mel Gibson, and Where the Heart Is, starring Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, and Sally Field Most recently, Susan produced the upcoming Beastly (a retelling of Beauty and the Beast) for CBS Films and Aquamarine for theatrical release. While at Fox, she developed and supervised: Nell, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Rookie of the Year, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which launched the successful television series. Susan was an instructor with New York University’s dramatic writing program. She received her MFA in dramatic writing from NYU and a bachelor of arts in theatre from UCLA.  Susan was recently elected Chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees of Women in Film.

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WIF Celebrates Black History Month 2012

Français : Sofia Coppola, le 7 novembre 2010 à...

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Women Make Movies was founded more than 30 years ago to address the under-representation and misrepresentation of women in media. According to the latest industry statistics, the fight goes on! Below are a few startling facts about the status of women in the industry, some heartening information from Women Make Movies, plus links to other great resources for the latest statistics, articles and opinions about women in the industry.

Film & Entertainment Industry Facts
Facts About Women Make Movies
Other Online Resources and Links 

Film & Entertainment Industry Facts

  • There are 39 film festivals solely dedicated to showing the work of women directors throughout the world. –Women in the Director’s Chair
  • Twenty one percent (21%) of the top 250 domestic grossing films released in 2007 employed no women directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors—a 2% increase since 2006. None of these films failed to employ a man in at least one of these roles. Celluloid Ceiling 2007 Report
  • Women accounted for 6% of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films released in 2007, a decline of 1% since 2006. This figure is approximately half the percentage of women directors working in 2000 when women accounted for 11% of all directors. Celluloid Ceiling 2007 Report
  • A historical comparison of women’s employment on the top 250 films in 2007 and 1998 reveals that the percentage of women in all behind-the-scenes roles (directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers) has declined. Celluloid Ceiling 2007 Report
  • Women accounted for 10% of writers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2007. Eighty two percent (82%) of the films had no female writers. Celluloid Ceiling 2007 Report
  • Women working behind the scenes influenced the number of on-screen women. When a program had no female creators, females accounted for 40% of all characters. However, when a program employed at least one woman creator, females comprised 45% of all characters. -Boxed In: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in the 2003-04 Prime-time Season, by Martha Lauzen
  • Men write 70% and women 30% of all film reviews published in the nation’s top newspapers. -Thumbs Down Report
  • Forty seven percent (47%) of the nation’s top newspapers do not include film reviews written by women, whereas only 12% do not include film reviews written by men. -Thumbs Down Report
  • On average, films employing at least one woman as director, executive producer, producer, or writer earned slightly higher opening weekend U.S. box office grosses ($27.1 vs. 24.6 million) than films with only men in these roles. -Women @ The Box Office
  • On average, films employing at least one woman as director, executive producer, producer, or writer grossed approximately the same at domestic box offices ($82.1 vs. $81.9 million) as films with only men in these roles. -Women @ The Box Office
  • In Academy Award history, four female filmmakers have been nominated for best director (Lina Wertmuller-1977, Jane Campion-1994, and Sofia Coppola-2004, Kathryn Bigelow – 2010), but only Kathryn has won. -Women’s E-News
  • WMM has more than 500 films in its collection, representing more than 400 filmmakers from nearly 30 countries around the globe.
  • In the last decade, WMM has worked with dozens of local women’s organizations in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to support new International Women’s Film Festivals.
  • Projects that WMM has supported and distributed have been nominated for and won all of the most prestigious media awards, including the Academy Award, Emmy Award, Peabody Award, and the duPont-Columbia University Broadcast Award, among others.
  • WMM now sponsors more than 200 projects in its renowned Production Assistance Program, and has helped filmmakers raise close to $4 million in funding over the last 5 years.
    Film director Kathryn Bigelow after a showing ...

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  • WMM has returned more than $1.5 million in royalties to women filmmakers over the last three years.
  • WMM serves as an advisor to pioneering projects around the world including: the Gender Montage Project which trains filmmakers in the former Soviet Republics; and a groundbreaking program developed to promote filmmaking in Iraq.
  • WMM films have been aired by major broadcasters around the world, including HBO/Cinemax, PBS, Sundance Channel, IFC and international broadcasters such as ZDF, Arte, KBS Korea and TV Globo Brazil.

Other Online Resources and Links

New York Women in Film and Television’s Resource List
NYWIFT’s list of resources that document the status of women in the industry. Contains articles, statistics and links to important reports on the subject.

Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching UP!
POWER UP works to promote the visibility and integration of gay women in the arts and all forms of media. POWER UP runs a workshop series as well as providing grants to filmmakers.

Women’s Study Section
A compilation of research from the Association of College and Research Libraries provides links to information concerning women in film. There are general sites, directories, criticisms, reviews, and organizations which give links to substantive information regarding women in film.

The Guerilla Girls
The Guerrilla Girls are a group of women artists, writers, performers, film makers and arts professionals who fight discrimination. They produce art posters, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in the art world and culture at large.

“The Woman Behind the Camera” Ann Lewinson www.independent.jknet.hk/AnnLewinson.htm
This article talks about the biases society imposes on women thus limiting their career in the film industry. Early NYU film students were told that women could not make feature films. These confessions along with chilling statistics from the Celluloid Ceiling tell the current status of women behind the camera.

The World’s Women On-Line!

Zdjęcie zrobione podczas międzynarodowego fest...

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The World’s Women On-Line! is an electronic art networking project originally established to be presented at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. Utilizing the Internet as a global exhibition format, this site focuses attention on the challenge of bringing the vast resource of women’s experience and culture into the rapidly developing field of information technology. The World’s Women On-Line! demonstrates the professionalism and achievement of women artists internationally; bridges language barriers through art imagery; and promotes the interdisciplinary collaboration between technologists and artists.

 “Status of Contemporary Women Filmmakers” Dr. Katrien Jacobs pages.emerson.edu/faculty/Katrien_Jacobs/articles/womenfilm/womenfilm.html
This article gives an in-depth analysis of international filmmaking and the ideologies that restrict women filmmakers. The effects of globalization and American corporations have made the emergence of women into the industry more difficult. Yet, there are still companies that are prevailing including WMM. There are some great quotes and analysis of current trends and how they will affect the woman filmmaker.

“Two Women Filmmakers Win Oscars” Cynthia L. Cooper www.womensenews.org/article.cfm?aid=490
Woman filmmakers are making their mark in the 2001 Oscars, despite the fact that a female director has never won the director of the year award. This article praises the feminine use of documentary. Cooper writes, “The golden statue is just a distant glimmer for most in the expanding opus of women’s work.” There are also links to other film and media sources that focus on women.

University of Berkeley
University of Berkeley’s bibliography of books and articles concerning women in the industry.

Women In the Director’s Chair
This site has a plethora of information that can be used by a filmmaker and/or academic looking for resources for women.

Fade In
Reprinted from www.FadeinOnline.com
An article by Stephen Galloway entitled “Women On The Verge: In Today’s Hollywood, Even If Women ‘Pass the Test,’ Can They Get Past The Testosterone?” talks about the issues affecting women filmmakers after graduating from film school. The article dishearteningly mentions information concerning the existent “boy’s club” in a supposed liberal Hollywood. “Male Dominance in the Hollywood Workplace, and What is Means for Women Making—and Seeing—Movies”

Tamara L. Sobel, The Girls, Women and Media Project www.mergemag.org/1999/novdec99/lauzen1999.html
Sobel sketches the grim portrait of women’s participation in Hollywood. Though a bit dated, this article from 1999 acknowledges the lack of creative influence and opportunity in Hollywood.

“Interviewer Interviewed: A Discussion with Trihn Minh-ha” pages.emerson.edu/organizations/fas/latent_image/issues/1993-12/trihn.htm
Acclaimed filmmaker and professor Trihn Minh-ha reflects on the independent filmmaking process, compares and contrasts filmmaking and writing, and discusses feminism, the art of balancing scholarship with creativity, and how she defines the ‘political’ in an interview with Tina Spangler from Emerson College.

“Listen to You Own Voice! An interview with Native American independent filmmaker, Sandra Osawa
Victor Payan chats with documentary filmmaker Sandra Osawa about her influences, film school, the documentary process, opportunities for Native American filmmakers, and how she navigated through a male dominated industry.

“Strong Women’s Roles at Toronto Festival”
In this article David Germain examines upcoming women’s roles in films at the Toronto International Film Festival. Using quotes from actresses and other women in the industry, Germain argues that while independent films have traditionally offered actresses roles of substance, films such as The Hours may have set a new standard in Hollywood filmmaking in terms of depth in women’s roles.

n.paradoxa – International Feminist Art Journal
Founded in 1998, n.paradoxa publishes scholarly and critical articles written by women critics, art historians and artists on the work of contemporary women artists post-1970 (visual arts only) working anywhere in the world. Each thematic volume in print contains artists and authors from more than 10 countries in the world and explores their work in relation to feminist theory.

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