As Fifty Shades Darker hits the cinema around the world, let’s talk about women’s power in the movie business.
In 2015, the world welcomed Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romantic drama film directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, with a screenplay by Kelly Marcel. The film is based on the eponymous 2011 novel by British author E. L. James and stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, a college graduate who begins a sadomasochistic relationship with young business magnate Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan.
Fifty Shades of Grey has previously topped best-seller lists around the world, selling over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015. It has been translated into 52 languages and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.
Excluding previews, the EL James adaptation was the fastest-grossing film since the first Hobbit movie in December 2012. Fifty Shades of Grey made US$ 570M worldwide in the box office alone on a budget of US$ 40 million.
Putting personal taste aside, the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey is a shining example of female audience box office power.
The fact is Fifty Shades film series, two more sequels, Fifty Shades Darker (2017) and Fifty Shades Freed (2018), prove just how lucrative for film studios to capture the power of the female audience.
Female Audience Growth
Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.
Women are the majority of the movie audience. According to the 2014 MPAA statistics, “Females have comprised a larger share of moviegoers (people who went to a movie at the cinema at least once in the year) consistently since 2009.”
In Australia, women are more likely than males to participate in cinema and DVD/ Blu-ray video, with participation rates of 31% and 54% respectively, compared to 27% and 50% for men.
The experience of watching a film at the cinema is unique. Screen Australia research has found that, for many people, ‘going to the movies’ is seen as an event, not just a way of consuming screen content. Women are known to be more social; so going to a movie theatre to see a film with others (friends or partners) can significantly feed this social need.
(Read Screen Australia – BEYOND THE BOX OFFICE UNDERSTANDING AUDIENCES IN A MULTI-SCREEN WORLD here.)
Nevertheless, historically, women have been left out, undervalued and marginalised concerning the movies that are released and the way films are marketed.
Universal Pictures’ musical comedy sequel Pitch Perfect 2 delivered a high note for US$ 287.5 million box office take on an estimated $29 million pricetag.
The success is significant for actress Elizabeth Banks. She took the film over after the first movie’s director, Jason Moore, left the production. Banks told the AP she had been itching to get into the role of director for years.
“I feel that I have more to offer this business and that I was being underused,” she said. “I knew it would probably change my life. I also knew that I had to say yes. Women just don’t get offered these opportunities.”
One of 2014’s biggest success stories, The Fault in Our Stars, grossed over US$ 300M worldwide on a modest US$12M budget. These huge numbers can be attributed to female audiences who constituted 82% of the film’s viewers opening weekend.
Female audiences are more inclined to repeat viewing, so when the girls are showing up again and again, thus creating large repeat business, multiple engagements and additional revenue streams.
The recent success of the Australian film The Dressmaker (directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse) is another example of how female content can attract amazing audience reaction. The Dressmaker opened at the number 1 spot at the Australian and New Zealand box offices and became the second highest-grossing Australian film of 2015 and eleventh highest-grossing film of all time at Australian box office. The Dressmaker secures its place among Australia’s biggest selling DVDs in 2016 with more than 230,000 copies sold in Australia.