Hollywood Films With Female Leads Often Do Better Than With Men - KMSP-TV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

Hollywood Films With Female Leads Often Do Better Than Those With Men

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You gotta love it when an assumption that has been held for so long by so many people turns out not to be the case. Up until now, the conventional Hollywood wisdom has been that films featuring women stars in prominent roles simply don't perform as well as those with men leading the cast. However, a close look at the numbers indicates not only is that probably not so, but that the opposite might actually be true.

The bottom line according to a new report: movies that have significant female characters offer a better return on investment overall than films that don't. And when it comes to making movies, you would think the bottom line is what matters most.

Now that doesn't necessarily mean that movies with female stars bring in more dollars at the box office. That's something completely different. But according to the number-crunching website FiveThirtyEight, which put out the report, when you compare the cost of making female-centric movies with how much money they gross, there is a higher rate of return, dollar for dollar, than male-oriented films.

But the question is, exactly what constitutes a female-centric film? This is where things get a little bit complicated. The report analyzed the box office performance of 1,615 movies released between 1990 and 2013 and whether those films pass the "Bechdel test." It's an assessment created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in a 1985 comic strip. The test requires that a film have at least two named female characters, that they have a conversation with each other at some point and that their conversation has nothing to do with a male character.

The total median gross return on investment for a film that passed this test was $2.68 for each dollar spent while the median return for films that failed the test was only $2.45 for every dollar spent. You should keep in mind that there are mitigating factors. Female stars tend to make significantly less money than their male counterparts and their films usually cost a lot less to make. Still, the study offers strong evidence that films with women in very prominent roles are performing quite well.

Some of the recent films passing the so-called Bechdel test include "Frozen" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." It's a fascinating study but will it necessarily translate into more movies being made with female leads? Who knows? But don't hold your breath. Old Hollywood habits can be hard to break. By the way, a recent report done by a professor at San Diego State found, among the top 100 grossing films of last year, only 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters and 30% of all speaking characters were female.

Tony McEwing co-anchors FOX 11 Morning News at 4:30 am and provides news updates for the Emmy award winning Good Day LA, broadcast weekdays from 7:00 - 10:00 am. He also co-anchors the FOX 11 10 am News and the FOX 11 News at Noon.
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