Are Tentpole-Worshipping Movie Studios Overlooking Women?
When Meryl Streep talks, Hollywood studios would be wise to listen.
The three-time Oscar winner (and 17-time Oscar nominee) carries weight in this town. And she wasn’t afraid to throw some of it around when addressing attendees at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards in Beverly Hills earlier this week.
“In this room, we are very familiar with these dreadful statistics that detail the shocking under-representation of women in our business,” Streep told a gathered audience (according to VF.com), lambasting the major studios for overlooking women on a consistent basis.
“Seven to ten percent of directors, producers, writers, and cinematographers [are women] in any given year. This in spite of the fact that in the last five years, five little movies aimed at women have earned over $1.6 billion: The Help, The Iron Lady believe it or not, Bridesmaids, Mamma Mia! and The Devil Wears Prada,” Streep said.
She continued, “As you can see, their problems were significant because they cost a fraction of what the big tentpole failures cost. Let’s talk about The Iron Lady. It cost $14 million to make it and brought in $114 million. Pure profit! So why? Why? Don’t [the studios] want the money?”
It’s one-sided thinking, with all due respect to Ms. Streep. The tentpoles she’s referring to likely don’t fail because they’re not structured around women. They usually fail because they have terrible scripts or insufficient special effects.
But Streep’s comments got us thinking: Does Hollywood need to do a better job of appealing to (and collaborating with) women? Would studios make more money by creating tentpole films that appealed to women as much as they appeal to men?
Earlier this year, Lionsgate took a gamble on The Hunger Games, a movie written by a woman (Suzanne Collins) and centered on a strong female protagonist in Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen.
In the top 10 at the moment for 2012, you’ll find three films (in addition to Games) with strong feminine viewpoints: The Vow, Snow White and the Huntsman and Think Like a Man.
Yet by the end of 2012, the two movies likely to be sitting at the top of the annual box office charts – The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises – are comic-book properties that, while universally appealing, target teenage boys and superhero-worshipping men.
What do you think? Are studios overlooking female audiences (and female filmmakers) in favor of big-budget tentpoles that are destined to fail? Is Streep off base by assuming women aren’t interested in tentpoles like Battleship or John Carter, which whiffed at the box office? Are you looking for more movies centered around strong female characters … movies like Bridesmaids, The Iron Lady and the other films Streep singled out?
Let us know your thoughts below. We’d love to hear what you think.
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Sean O'ConnellFandango Bloggers
Sean is a film reviewer for The Washington Post and daily contributor to Fandango.