Remember last fall when Warner Brothers chief Jeff Robinov issued a studio-wide freeze on movies with female leads, under the rationale that those films do not bring in any money? Well if he looked at looked at the hard data, like Women & Hollywood Melissa Silverstein did for the Women's Media Center, Robinov would have found that movies with women, like the box office-bursting Mamma Mia! (with Mamma Meryl) do make good cash…when they're allowed to be made in the first place.Silverstein uses new data from Martha Lauzen, the director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, who discovered that, "overall, when women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting box office grosses are also similar…It comes down to the size of the budget. If you give men and women similar budgets they will make similar grosses." But, as Silverstein notes:
Films with female protagonists or prominent women in an ensemble have lower production budgets (by almost $30 million). It doesn’t take an economist to understand that it costs more to blow things up than it costs to have people talking, and women have a tendency to actually have conversations in films. Though the center couldn’t obtain them, marketing budgets, which tend to follow production budgets, are probably lower for these films. So they make less money, which in turn fuels the impression that women's films are not successful.
Silverstein is still waiting for Hollywood's light bulb moment when it comes to women in film, because as Lauzen says, "W're dealing with perceptions and it can be really hard to change those perceptions even when you have quantitative, hard evidence that the belief is incorrect." 2008 has been a banner year for female-led movies, as both Mamma Mia! and Sex and the City made a ton of cash. Will the studios end up considering these movies lucky accidents or will they finally start changing their bad attitudes? Women’s Films: A New Box Office Trend? [Women's Media Center] "Cordial", "Charming" Studio Chief Explains Why Women Can't Sell Movies (Except Julia Roberts)