girls aren’t irrelevant

“If you’re not making a movie that appeals to children or young males, you do not deserve to be in a movie theater during the summer.” – Jon Favreau at the Cowboys and Aliens Comic Con panel

really? really?! As a woman I’m used to being discounted by Hollywood where men 18-49 are the holy grail, but I admit I’m a little appalled.

Not because I don’t know that kid movies or movies that appeal to men 18-49 tend to make the most money. But because the way he says it implies I have no value as an audience member; that my tastes and opinions aren’t worthwhile.

The second implication is that movies targeted to kids and men 18-49 make money while movies marketed to older audiences or women of any age don’t. Which isn’t entirely true.

Ok, maybe it’s mostly true about kids movies. Animated movies that open in the summer tend to make $300M – $600M worldwide (though non-animated films make much less). But you also have to take into account that they make money exponentially. Kids can’t go see movies by themselves so for every 1 kid that wants to see a movie you’ve got at least 1 parent that has to accompany them and possibly 2 or 3 siblings or 2 parents or any combination of tickets sold above and beyond the 1 kid.

As far as films that appeal to men 18-49, the truth is they tend to make more money than movies targeted at other demographics, but only when they make money at all. The reality is that they tend to cost significantly more so the risk is higher. They either do what Jon thinks they do – clearing $400-$600M or are lucky to make $100M-$200M (or less) with budgets nearly equally the worldwide box office (like Cowboys & Aliens which only made $167 with a budget reported at $163).

Movies targeted more exclusively toward women are actually the safer bet, because of lower budgets and because they are capable of box office numbers that parallel movies made for men 18-49 like The Help ($174M) and Bridesmaids ($286M). Everyone seems surprised when movies made for women cross $100M (so much so that Variety felt the need to report on it in 2008) but clearly women show up when they want to and they can bring a lot of money. (You really think Titanic is the 2nd highest grossing movie ever because guys 18-49 liked watching it sink?)

The truly successful movies may most often masquerade as movies for men 18-49 or kids but they only make $300M or more because other people show up – because women like sci fi and action and because kids want to see things maybe they’re not quite old enough for or parents go to a kid’s movie and because people over 50 aren’t complete dotards. As Kel pointed out, men 18-49 and kids generally open movies movies huge. But movies have legs and therefore cross box office thresholds because other people go see them too.

I’m not blind to the realities of the industry, but I’m still a little indignant that Jon Favreau would have such a narrow view point that so easily dismisses me.

(all box office and budget figures from box office mojo)

October 20, 2011 | Commentary | this post contains affiliate links