"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Importance of Opening Weekend

Every time my fiance Dan is interested in a new movie, he keeps tabs on it, knows when it hits theaters, and usually prefers to see it opening weekend. He and a bunch of friends often meet up at the theater on a film's opening night. Just this summer, he's done this with Iron Man, Hellboy II, Kung Fu Panda, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. He probably would have done the same thing with Indiana Jones:The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Wall-E, and The Dark Knight if he hadn't waited until I was free to see them. He's out seeing Seth Rogen's new flick Pineapple Express as we speak. For him and his friends, opening weekends dictate when and why they get together. It isn't just catching movies when it's convenient and seeing whatever is playing. For them (and for millions of twenty-something males), the movie is the event.

It really got me thinking about opening weekend when Melissa Silverstein (from the blog Women & Hollywood) posted this excerpt from a USA Today article in which she was quoted:

If Sex and the City and Mamma Mia! have proved anything, it's that it makes no difference to the bottom line if most men decide to steer clear. Women did it all by themselves.

And if female moviegoers want more of the same, they will have to continue to take a break from their busy routines and buy a ticket again.

"Go see a movie about women on the opening weekend, that is what matters to Hollywood," says Melissa Silverstein, who blogs on the Women & Hollywood site and contributes to the Huffington Post. "We need to build our economic power and prove we're a market."

Cash, at least, doesn't have a gender bias.

"The only thing that makes anyone pay attention is money," says Diane English, the creator of TV's Murphy Brown whose update of the 1939 Joan Crawford-Norma Shear classic The Women arrives Sept. 12.

"Anyone who thinks otherwise shouldn't be in this business. Young men under 25 keep seeing comic-book and slasher films, and that's why Hollywood makes them. If women want to change things, they can't wait for the DVD."

Makes total sense, right? I have to admit that I feel sort of silly for not ever realizing the importance of opening weekend profits to movies made by, for, and about women. I also have to admit that I think it's sort of silly that opening weekend is so important in determining the success of a film, but if it's opening weekend sales they want, then maybe it's opening weekend sales we should give them. If more women-centered movies brought in more opening weekend profits, maybe more women-centered movies would be made.

It's not like there aren't other good reasons to go see movies right when they open. Dan says he likes to see movies on opening night or during opening weekend because the audiences are better. To him, a packed house makes for a better movie-going atmosphere, and since those who make the effort to see something during opening weekend are more likely to be fans of the genre, topic, director, etc., it's cool to be in a packed house of like-minded people. I have to admit that before meeting him, I never really thought of going to the movies in this way, even though I consider myself a movie-lover, but I get where he's coming from, and I'm starting to agree with him about that opening weekend feel. Another good thing about seeing something right after it opens is that you can read all of those online reviews that are full of spoilers, and you can take part right away in any discussions that are sparked by the film.

I'm new to this myself, but my advice to anyone interested in supporting women-centered films is to start following movie news so that you know what films are coming out and when. Read and subscribe to sites like Women & Hollywood and Movies by Women (which I learned of through Viva la Feminista). Learn which female directors and writers you really like, and make a commitment to see their films. There's still a long way to go to close the gender gap in Hollywood.

Anyone have any other good sites to recommend?


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I mean, I mostly avoid movies on opening weekend. Even if I can get a ticket, I don't want to have to show up to the theatre an hour in advance just to get a seat. Or in the case of seeing movies with my guy friends (not Kamran, thankfully), two hours early so we can get the cool leather seats in the center rows.

Tracey said...

Is it really like that for every movie there and not just the super-hyped action-y comic book movies?

I feel like I should start quoting a cheesy MovieTickets.com commercial or something to offer a solution, but yeah. That sucks. Movies almost never sell out here that early unless they're special sneak previews (or I-Max showings of The Dark Knight).

Anonymous said...

If movie theatres sold reserve seating, I would be ALL OVER IT.

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