“Chick flick” has been an outdated phrase for some time. This year – and the record-breaking Thanksgiving weekend – has made it downright antiquated.
That women drove the holiday box office was no surprise. But the record-breaking heights to which they drove it were stunning.
Katniss Everdeen and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” had the best Thanksgiving weekend any movie has ever had, with $110 million over the five days. At the same time, “Frozen” sisters Anna and Elsa were posting the biggest opening ever on the holiday with $93 million for Disney.
That’s box-office Girl Power.
Both movies’ audiences were mainly female, “Frozen” at 57 percent and “Catching Fire” at 59 percent on their opening weekends. To be sure, you don’t put up numbers like those films did without appealing on a broad scale and to both genders, and they did. But there’s no doubt that a lot of women were calling the movie-going shots this weekend, as they have been for much of the year.
Also read: ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and ‘Frozen’ Make History at Thanksgiving Box Office
It’s not just that they are, however, it’s the kind of films they’re making hits.
Lionsgate’s “Catching Fire” – in which Jennifer Lawrence‘s character stands up to an oppressive government – may yet overtake “Iron Man 3” as No. 1 at the domestic box office, 3D or not. Sandra Bullock‘s character is at the heart of “Gravity,” which has developed the strongest combination of Oscar buzz and box-office heat of any film. Three of 2013’s highest-grossing comedies – “The Heat,” “We’re the Millers” and “Identity Thief” – had female stars, and were way more raunchy than romantic.
The common thread: independent-thinking women of action.
“We’ve come a long way from Mary Pickford tied to the railroad tracks,” veteran marketing researcher and Capstone Global Marketing co-founder, Catherine Paura, told TheWrap.
“The role of women in our culture has changed enormously when you think about how many women are head of households, how many women don’t get married, how many women are single mothers and what women do at work,” she said.
Also read: From ‘His Girl Friday’ to ‘The Heat': The Evolution of Female Comedies (Photos)
Another reason “Catching Fire” and “Frozen” might have done so well is that women are less likely than men to be distracted by football or other leisure activities, Paura suggested.
“We’ve done our own surveys and they show that while movies are still the No. 1 entertainment choice for women, for men video games are right up there, and I think that can definitely be a factor,” she said.
“Frozen,” with Disney Animation’s first female director Jennifer Lee at the helm, is in the grand tradition of the studio’s classic princess movies and hardly a feminist treatise. But the plot has more to do with love, fear and reconciling with a sister than it does in finding a prince, as it might have in years past.
Also read: Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Animator Draws Heat for Female Character Comments
That Hollywood would make more movies that feature roles for women inspired by a more advanced consciousness seems obvious, but it’s taken awhile.
“Movies with women in the forefront – particularly smart, strong women – have become more common,” said BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino. “But until recently this was an under-served audience, and that’s why they’re doing the kind of business they are, and it’s great for the industry.”
This coming weekend, between the Thanksgiving holiday and the start of the Christmas release rush is traditionally a slow one at the box office. The studios leave it largely clear to let consumers catch up on movies in the marketplace – not to mention shopping and other holiday preps.
CBS Films is giving the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” a limited debut, but the only wide opener will be Relativity’s dark and violent R-rated thriller “Out of the Furnace.”
Katniss, Anna and Elsa should take that as a compliment – they’re being counter-programmed.