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‘Wonder Woman’ soars at the box office, breaks superhero glass ceiling

“Wonder Woman” topped the box office this weekend, earning $100.5 million domestically, which is the largest opening yet for a movie helmed by a female director.

Patty Jenkins’s film edged out the previous record-holder, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which boasted an $85.2 million opening weekend and was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

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The “Wonder Woman” audiences also didn’t follow traditional superhero film audience demographics, with 52 percent of its viewers being women. Normally, as the Hollywood Reporter noted, 60 percent or more of a superhero movie’s fans are male.

The film earned an additional $122.5 million worldwide.

“It shows that superhero movies aren’t just about men. They’re about women as well,” Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros, told the Associated Press. “All the noise about Patty Jenkins breaking the glass ceiling for directors, I think that added to it as well.”

These numbers are particularly meaningful for an industry in which “the directors’ branch is still dominated by men,” as CNN noted.

In 2016, only 7 percent of the top 250 films were directed by women, which marked a 2 percent decrease from 2015, according to San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

The tide seems to be turning, but even at this year’s film festival in Cannes, France, only three of the 19 main competition entries were directed by women — a paltry 15 percent, which inspired much criticism.

“I do believe that if you have female storytelling, you also have more authentic female characters. This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days, and I love movies,” actress Jessica Chastain said at a news conference. “And the one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented. And it was quite disturbing to me, to be honest.”

“I do hope that when we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women that I recognize in my day-to-day life — ones that are proactive, have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them. They have their own point of view,” Chastain added.

Some think the success of “Wonder Woman” could be a landmark moment for female directors.

“Any ridiculous notion that a woman may not be suited to direct a big budget superhero movie is hopefully once and for all shattered,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, told CNN.

Many, in fact, kept a keen eye on the movie’s box office returns well before they were reported.

As Kevin Lincoln wrote last week in Vulture, “As the first female-fronted superhero movie of the Marvel era, as well as the first to be helmed by a female director, ‘Wonder Woman’ also carries with it the (unfair) prerogative of proving the international viability of female-oriented tentpoles. If it succeeds, studios will have even fewer excuses for their currently pathetic rate of hiring women to direct, and for making blockbusters centered on female characters and stories.”

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While “Wonder Woman” far exceeded its expected $175 million worldwide debut, its opening, as ranked by Box Office Mojo, was 16th among superhero movies. “Marvel’s The Avengers” made $207.4 million and “Iron Man 3″ made $174.1 million domestically in their respective opening weekends.

It is vital to note, though, that most of the films with larger opening weekends generally included more well-known actors and were about most popular characters. In fact, “up to this point, DC Comics has never had an outright smash hit without Batman or Superman showing up to play,” Scott Mendelson wrote in Forbes.

The critical reviews for “Wonder Woman,” meanwhile, have been astoundingly high. It earned a 93 percent “fresh” rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, making it tied for the best-reviewed superhero movie since “The Dark Knight,” according to Entertainment Weekly.

The film’s success wasn’t only good for female directors. It course-corrected a summer movie season that was looking dire.

“This saves the day, at least for now, for the summer box office,” Dergarabedian said. “Heading into this weekend, the summer movie season was down about 9 percent, and that deficit has been cut by about half in this one weekend.”

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