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Making the case that making movies by, for and about women is good business

The cast of
The cast of "Bridesmaids"
Universal Pictures

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The 2011 movie “Bridesmaids,” written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, featured an ensemble of comedic actresses and took in more than $288 million globally. And that’s just one of a handful of women-driven movies that have done big business at the box office.

And yet, entertainment designed by, for and about women continues to be produced far less frequently than the same entertainment by, for and about men.

One reason for this disparity? Veteran producer Lydia Dean Pilcher says there are commonly held beliefs in Hollywood that "female content’s not profitable. Women don’t go to the movies. A lot of things that I just know are not true." 

Pilcher is chair of the Women's Impact Network at the Producers Guild of America and she has partnered with Melissa Silverstein of  Women and Hollywood to find an innovative way of combating these narratives. Silverstein says: "We're half the world. Our stories matter."

Rather than target the industry’s conscience and sense of fairness, they're aiming at the bottom line. The guild has compiled data from recent studies — like the one conducted by Stacy Smith at USC, which was commissioned by Women in Film/LA and The Sundance Institute — and they've created The Ms Factor Toolkit. It’s full of statistics about who buys movie tickets, who in the household has the earning power, and which movies with female leads or women directors and producers have done well at the box office.  

Melissa Silverstein says,

Hollywood is really based on false narratives and what this report does is take these false narratives and debunk them. And says, 'You don't believe that women make money-- movies with women make money? Here's the data...if you want to have a successful venture in Hollywood you have to take women into account.

Pilcher says that the toolkit has valuable information that's culled from decades in the business sitting where these conversations about the marketability of female-driven content often gets in the way.  

I felt that as a producer I was in the unique position-- and producers are in a unique position-- to see what's happening behind the scenes because we are financing content, we are talking to financiers and studio executives about actors and who we need to make the boat float. And we're hearing what these conversations are and what the reactions are. So I felt we were in a unique position to coalesce information and put this toolkit together which could be used for anybody-- men, women, filmmakers, producers-- who are pitching female-driven content to debunk the myths.

The toolkit covers all aspects to what goes into making and distributing a movie including some illuminating information about who buys the movies that get put into the multiplex. According to John Fithian, the President and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners (aka NATO) all of the top film buyers for the theater chains are men. Silverstein explained to The Frame why that was an important piece of information.

Because these are the people who are making the decisions of what's goes into AMC or Regal. And one of the statistics that always sticks in my head is that most people in this country see their movies in big multiplexes. 80% of all movies are seen in multiplexes with 8 or more screens. So if women cannot get onto those screens then people cannot seen them. Then they cannot make the box office dollars that get them get into the conversation of those movies being a success.  




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