Movies for Women?

Watching Magic Mike this past weekend and seeing a theater full of women enjoying a movie together, it made me wonder how well movies aimed at mostly adult women fare.  This doesn't necessarily mean just romantic comedies, though they are often described that way anyway.  So I took a look at the top 50 grossing films from the past 10 years for each year based on total grosses by boxofficemojo and picked out those that I felt were fairly solidly marketed only at adult women.
Only twice in the past 10 years have movies that are targeted at women been in the top 10 highest grossing movies of the year (2009's The Blind Side at #8 with $255million, and 2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding at #5 with $241million and Chicago at #10 with $170million).  In 2 different years, 2007 and 2005 no movie targeted toward women made over $100million, and if you check out the titles, you can see why women were more discerning that year.  How can this be?  Must movies be required to reach larger demographics to be successful?

My question probably becomes: if movies aimed at women don't make a lot of money, why don't they just make BETTER movies aimed at women so more people will want to see them?  Both of the cofounders of REEL INSIGHT are women (trust us).  We also have fairly different taste in films, but if a movie is genuinely good, we're pretty quick to agree.  And, if it is generally accepted that a good movie, not all great movies, but usually good movies will make money, why aren't there more good movies aimed at women?  I don't have a good answer for this, and I don't know if it comes down to the fact that a teenage boy will see a movie in theaters 5 times, but most adult women won't see it more than once and are thus a less valuable market.  Or if there aren't enough women making decisions about what movies get made to make movies targeted toward women.  I refuse to believe it's because women's movies are inherently bad or that women just don't go to the movies.  It must be more complicated that that.

Now that I've written this, I'm actually really curious to ask an adult male friend to go through the same 10 years and pick out the movies are marketed toward or aimed at only adult men.  Does such a thing exist?  Or are all movies that adult men enjoy either neutral adult movies (aimed at neither men nor women) or teenage boy films?  I'm curious.  Thoughts?  Any volunteers to take that on for me? 

For your amusement (the # is their rank that year in list of highest grossing films, and the $ is about how much it grossed):
2011 - #13 The Help $169M and #14 Bridesmaids $169M 
2010 - #24 Valentine's Day  $110M, #33 Sex and the City 2 $95M,  #42 Eat Pray Love, $80M
2009 - #8 The Blind Side  $255M,  #16 The Proposal $163M #28 It's Complicated $112M, #34 Julia and Julia $94M, #35 He's Just Not that Into You $94M
2008 - #11  Sex and the City $152M,  #13 Mamma Mia $144M, #37 What happens in Vegas $80M
2007 - #47 P.S. I love you $53M
2006 - #17 Devil Wears Prada $124M, #18 The Break up $118,  #19 Dreamgirls $103M, #21 Failure to Launch $88M
2005 - #23 Monster in Law $82M, #45 Memoirs of a Geisha $50M
2004 - #15  50 First Dates $120M #32 The Notebook $81
2003 - #24 How to lose a guy in 10 days $105M,  #29 Charlie's Angels 2 $100M, #32 Legally Blonde 2 $90
2002 - #5 My Big Fat Greek Wedding $241M, #10 Chicago $170M, #19 Sweet Home Alabama $127M, #26 Maid in Manhattan $94


  1. I still say that at least a third of the women gathered for MAGIC MIKE were there to see buff guys get their kit off more than they were to watch a movie aimed at women, but that's another discussion for another day.

    You have touched on the problem somewhat in that the reason why good movies aimed at women (read: THE HELP, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, etc) can easily rake it in where female audiences are concerned, however they have problems crossing over. It all comes down to a thickheaded guy thing where you hear beer-drinkin', truck-drivin' dudes saying "I ain't seeing no BRIDESMAIDS".

    Unfortunately, the reverse doesn't apply, since plenty of women dig seeing so-called "guy movies" like THE EXPENDABLES, MONEYBALL, or WARRIOR.

    Therein lies the problem. Not what is made and what is marketed, but what your average Joe-Sixpack will spend his hard-earned on. I think it's dumb myself, since it means quite often they are missing out on great movies...but I can make the same argument for why "Joe" won't see indie movies, foreign movies, documentaries, and so on.

    The saddest part? It starts early: little girls have no qualms seeing TOY STORY - try getting a little boy to see BRAVE.

    1. I can't believe I'm saying this, but... I actually totally agree with Hatter on this one. (Except I'd add that much more than just a third were there for hot, mostly naked guys rather than just a women's movie.)

    2. You're missing the point of this post completely - it's not about why women go to see movies - men probably go more often if there's a shot of Megan Fox's ass, right. It's about why movies geared toward women are neither made frequently nor appear in the top grossing films.

    3. Oh, no, I totally get what you're saying. I think a big problem with it is also that those movies, especially the ones in your highest grossing films list, tend to be anywhere from terrible to mediocre (with the obvious exceptions, of course). That's why they don't do so well. I think if Hollywood would actually make quality films geared towards women, we might begin to see a rise in profits. Again, there are certainly exceptions.

      I was also just saying I agree with what Hatter said, too.

    4. Have either of you ladies seen MissRepresentation yet? It elucidated a lot for me about why representations of women generally suck and skew toward the stereotypical in Hollywood. There are a lot of crappy movies geared towards women out there, and not a lot of women actually making movies. For one thing, it's hard for a woman to work up the ranks in filmmaking--especially since, from an early age, we're often steered away from 'technical jobs.' This also means that we don't have control over our own stories--or any stories, for that matter. As a result, we are being represented by men. Which means we're often being represented by men FOR men.

      Ryan definitely has a point that it's more socially acceptable for a woman to go to an action movie than for a man to say "Let's check out that rom-com."

      It doesn't help that rom-coms are generally perceived as cookie-cutter (who wants to pay to see Katharine Heigl make an ass out of herself...again?) I wonder if there's a sick cycle thing going on where rom-coms (for awhile at least) weren't particularly good, and so people weren't going to see them. B/c people weren't going to see them studios started making new ones that appeal to the lowest common denominator. Maybe that's how we ended up with gross-out rom-coms in the first place...

      All I know is, Sex and the City 2 was the worst piece of trash I've ever seen in my life. It was horribly offensive. So I'm not sure what it says about filmmakers or the all-female audience seeing it with me. My friend and I were horrified, while everyone else was laughing. Maybe there are so few stories we can relate to that we're willing to relate to whatever we're given... what a depressing thought.

      Obviously my thoughts are scattered...there's a lot to chew on here...

  2. I hope this is a cultural shift that is changing as people our age raise children who are open to more experiences in different genres of film and that it becomes a good film = a lot of money regardless of the topic. Who knows. Thanks for weighing in.

  3. I hope so too, and hope to do my own part as a person with a platform to spread the word that guys should concern themselves less with gender stereotypes, and more with wanting to support good storytelling.

  4. Was Blind Side geared toward women only? I mean the movie was about a professional football player's life - sure Sandra Bullock stole the film, but it was mostly the story of Michael Oher. That alone can get men to the theaters. Not that this has anything to do with your post, except that it would remove another film that wasn't geared toward women.

    1. I don't think it was geared toward women particularly, but it was derided like many female driven movies can be. I think it was geared toward women in the sense that it had a very strong female lead and football was fairly secondary.


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