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Big News: Female-Friendly Films Make Money! See Beauty and the Beast Opening Weekend For Details!

beauty and the beast trailer

Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson was number one at the box office this weekend, bringing in a record $170 million and making it the seventh-biggest domestic opening of all time. All thanks to female movie-going audiences.

Beauty and the Beast sailed to number one very definitively because of women. According to Box Office Mojo, 72% of the audience for the film was made up of women and girls. What’s interesting is that the film joins a Top Ten that includes another Emma Watson project. As reported by Vulture:

That puts [Beauty and the Beast] in rarefied company: Of the rest of the top-ten biggest domestic openings, only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 also had a majority-female audience. B&B’s gender breakdown is in line with some of Disney’s recent hits: Frozen’s opening weekend was 57 percent female, while Maleficent was also 60 percent female. However, none of those compare to the 2015 Cinderella, which had an opening-weekend audience that was fully two-thirds women.

Not only is Beauty and the Beast a feminine story with a female lead, but its seems to be consciously feminist (or, at least, more feminist), which may account for much of its appeal. We know that Emma Watson lobbied to have Belle be the inventor in her family, rather than her father. There’s also the fact that Belle’s a woman who places more value in books and knowledge of the world rather than on romance. And there’s even feminism in Belle’s costume choices!

Not only did Watson decline to wear a corset during filming, but according to the film’s costume designer Jacqueline Durran in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily:

“She doesn’t wear ballet pumps, she wears boots. She has her 18th-century pockets, but she has them on the outside of her costume so that you can see they’re like a tool belt. They’ve got useful things in them that she’ll need for doing the different things she does in the village. She tucks her skirt up into her waistband so you can see her bloomers, and she wears bloomers so that she can not be trapped by the skirt.”

It seems that Disney owes much of its recent success to female-friendly films, and not only its princess films. As we know, even recently-acquired franchises like Star Wars have been successes for Disney thanks to a female movie-going audience. After all, while white males made up the majority of the audience for The Force Awakens‘ record-breaking opening weekend, it was the fact that women and people of color went to see it, then saw repeat viewings that were largely responsible for its box office throughout its theatrical run. It certainly seems that casting a female lead and a non-white supporting main cast doesn’t hurt a film’s chances, in any event.

And yes, we’re talking about popular franchises and characters here, and yet these are often the very properties that make Hollywood studios nervous, because there’s so much anticipation and money at stake. It often makes them more nervous to “take a chance” here than it would to take a chance on a smaller female-led project. Though they’re not really doing much of that, either.

The accepted and prevailing wisdom (even though it is consistently challenged by numbers, studies, and facts) is that Blockbuster Movies Are For Male Audiences 18-45, because those are the people who spend money on films. Therefore, every film that has a female protagonist, or has a story that is somehow feminine in nature or geared toward a female audience usually has to go through extra hoops to prove that it is capable of making money, and no amount of Hunger Gameses or Frozens or Twilights matter, because people retort with “But Catwoman, tho!” *sigh*

Yet no one goes, “Clearly male superhero movies don’t make money. I mean, look what happened to Green Lantern. Or Fantastic Four. Or Daredevil. Or The Incredible Hulk. Or the other Incredible Hulk.”

Beauty and the Beast has already, in one weekend, come close to what it took Logan three weeks to make. Perhaps Beauty and the Beast‘s success will finally be the thing that forces Hollywood decision-makers to wise up and realize that women’s stories can be good for business. One can only hope.

(via Jezebel, image via Disney)

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