For a long time, there has been something of a groupthink mentality that female-led films don't deliver at the box office. Similar to the 'boys won't buy action figures of female characters' assertion, this view could seemingly be used to financially justify not putting women front and center in movies. Anecdotally, this narrative has been crumbling for years, but now there is hard data that shows that movies starring women actually do better at the box office than movies starring men.
The new study shows that casting women as leads in films provides a boost at the box office over those films lead by males, according to Deadline. Most interestingly is that this wasn't a case of female-led indie films or blockbusters that outperformed their male-led counterparts throwing off the averages. Female-led movies on average outperformed the guys across the spectrum budget-wise.
The study, from agency CAA and tech firm Shift7, analyzed 350 films released between January 2014 and December 2017 in five budget categories (below $10 million, $10 million to $30 million, $30 million to $50 million, $50 million to $100 million and $100+ million) and found that 105 of them were led by women, based on who was listed first in billing blocks, press notes or final credits.
The difference between female-led movies and male-led movies was the most pronounced among the bigger budgeted films. For movies in the study that cost between $50 million and $100 million, the women-led films averaged $318 million at the worldwide box office, versus $243 million for those led by men. In the $100+ million bracket, the ladies averaged $586 million worldwide, whereas the dudes couldn't quite match with $514 million.
The research from CAA and Shift7 also looked at how women were depicted in films and if that had any impact on the title's box office performance. Specifically, it looked at the performance of movies that pass the Bechdel Test. For a film to pass the Bechdel Test, it has to have multiple women who speak to each other about something other than men.
It was found that films that passed the Bechdel Test outperformed those films that did not. Which makes sense, because female-led films should naturally give the female characters more opportunities to talk about something other than men. It is also likely that audiences, particularly women, want to see movies that have fully fleshed out female characters, and they reward those films at the box office. To drive this point home, all of the films that have crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office since 2012 have passed the test.
Anecdotally, it has seemed like the walls have been crumbling around the assumption that female-led films were less successful than male-led ones for a few years now, the same time period of this study, with films like Wonder Woman and already we are seeing that with what projects are being greenlit.
These numbers just back that up, showing that the bottom line is no longer a valid excuse not to put women front and center in movies and give them the same opportunities as the guys have head for decades.
There are plenty of female-led movies hoping to further prove what this study has shown hitting theaters next year. Check them out in our 2019 release schedule.
Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.
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