Seth MacFarlane’s first major motion picture, “Ted” — the story of Mark Wahlberg and his foul-mouthed, teddy bear best friend — made $54.1 million over the weekend and is now the No. 1 movie in the country. Its audience was mostly male.
“Magic Mike” brought in $39.1 million and took second place in the weekend movie competition. Its audience was overwhelmingly female.
So, in conclusion, the stereotypical “guy movie” beat the one that was marketed primarily to women. This is clearly a loss for females desperate to have Hollywood take them seriously. Or is it?
According to studio exit polling reported by Box Office Mojo, 56% of the movie’s audience was male, and 52% fell under the age of 30. In other words, this film appealed to the summer movie demographic that studios still covet above all others: young adult men.
“Magic Mike” also attracted the audience one would have imagined given its female-centric marketing campaign: 73% of its audience was comprised of women, 57% of whom were under the age of 35.
What does this information tell us? Really, it’s a data-driven way of making a generalization that’s also sort of true and a little bit insulting to men (sorry): Women are usually totally fine with seeing “guy flicks” but men, on the other hand, may be more reticent to see movies that blatantly target the ladies, especially if those movies involve dudes taking off their clothes. The pop cultural gender divide is, in many ways, still alive and well.
Does that mean that every woman who saw “Ted” kowtowed to her boyfriend or husband and saw the comedy against her will? Of course not. Plenty of women are Seth MacFarlane fans and were probably very happy to pay upwards of $10 to watch a teddy bear hump a grocery store cash register. I suspect, however, that as soon as the word “stripper” was uttered, a lot of guys ruled out the possibility of seeing “Magic Mike.”
And while that may provide a new and interesting talking point in the ongoing conversation entitled “Seriously, You Guys are from Mars, and We’re Over Here, on Venus,” it also tells us something even more important: that women are just as crucial to box office success as this Washington Post piece by Melissa Silverstein suggests.
Silverstein argues that Hollywood should place greater value on women as consumers and be “frightened of what will happen if it keeps taking female filmgoers for granted.”
Indeed, let’s look at those numbers again. You take away the women who went to see “Magic Mike” — that 73% — and you’ve got very little in terms of revenue. And the flip side of the 56% male audience for “Ted” is the 44% female one, which comprises nearly half of the movie’s ticket buyers. Remove them from the equation and, again, MacFarlane doesn’t have as big of a hit on his hands.
I haven’t even discussed the mostly female and almost entirely African-American crowd that put $26.35 million in Tyler Perry’s pockets this weekend by seeing “Madea’s Witness Protection.” Or the opening weekend audience for Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy,” which, contrary to what you might think, was 46% female.
This may be a slightly unfair generalization, but what the heck, I’ll make it: Women are more willing to embrace different genres and cinematic experiences much more readily than their male counterparts. And that’s exactly why, to Silverstein’s point, studio executives would be wise to start placing them at the forefront of their decision-making process. Ladies want to go to the movies, and they can be enticed to show up, even when there isn’t a whole lotta Joe Manganiello involved. Although, for the record, that does help.