Almost a year-and-a-half ago, I re-posted an article here I'd written on the Huffington Post two years before that, on March 5, 2011. It was an article titled, "Audiences Won't Go to See An Action Movie That Stars Women,: The title was tongue-in-cheek, as the piece was full of research that showed the very opposite, despite the "Myth Perception" in Hollywood that was insistent upon its validity.
This came to mind when I noticed the box office figures for two action movies that opened over the weekend.
box office gross per screen avg budget
Lucy $43.9 million $13,800 per screen $40 million
Hercules $29.9 million $8,300 per screen $100 million
To be clear, Hercules did quite well. To be even more clear, Lucy did 50 percent better, and cost less than half. This by itself doesn't prove anything. It could be dismissed by Hollywood executives for any none of reasons (Good ad campaign, bad ad campaign, audiences couldn't tell that Hercules starred Duane Johnson, Duane Johnson can't open a movie, audiences don't want to see movies about ancient Greece, Scarlett Johannsen is hot, Lucy also has Morgan Freeman in it, "Lucy" is fewer letters than "Hercules," none of which are valid, but that's another matter). And ultimately, even without excuses it's still just two movies and one weekend. But...I can assure you that if it was the other way around, it would have been held up as meaningful by those same executives. And if Hercules had flopped, it would have been dismissed as a bad movie about ancient times. And if Lucy had flopped, it would have proved that...well, you know -- Audiences Won't Go to See an Action Movie That Stars Women."
Hollywood loves its Myth Perceptions, "wise sayings" that one person hears from another, which therefore makes it true. "I heard that..." And that gets passed along to another and another. Until it eventually becomes Truth Itself. But a Myth Perception, nonetheless. Myth Perceptions are great in Hollywood because they eliminate the need to think or do research. And they can be used to support comforting misconceptions, no matter how inaccurate.
And when something comes along to turn that Myth Perception upside down, well that's not proof, it's nothing more than just a one-time, non-recurring phenomenon. An exception to the rule.
Like Lucy, The Hunger Games series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and its upcoming series), Gravity Snow White and the Hunstman, Divergent (and the upcoming series), the Twilight series, Prometheus, Frozen, Brave, Mirror Mirror…and on and on and on. Massive successes, many of them over half a billion dollars worldwide, some over a billion.
And still Hollywood executives show a bizarre resistance to such things. At best, seeing such films as a fad. At worst, a glitch in the space-time continuum. At what point does reality start being recognized as not “a fad.” As not a “phenomenon”?? But rather seen for it was -- a market that has long existed but sat untapped. It’s what I've been writing about and researching and demonstrating for the past decade. And at some point, Hollywood executives are going to grasp it and see it for what it is. Reality. You'd think they'd leap at the realization, finding a brand new, massive market for their product. Yet still they fight it. Still they discount it. Still they are wary -- waiting for some mediocre action movie that stars a woman to fail, just so that they can say, "Aha, see, I told you so. Audiences Won't See An Action Movie That Star Women."
I say this with some experience in the game, a tale far too long to get into. But just know that this Myth Perception of women's action movies is pervasive and insidious. I first wrote about this in depth over four years ago -- and have followed several times -- and the articles always have dealt with actual facts and very real numbers that went back long before that.
But Myth Perceptions live on. Sometimes head-bangingly so.
One of my favorite Myth Perceptions is that the second Charlie's Angels movie was such a disastrous flop that it killed the promising franchise. After all, the first Charlie's Angels movie was a spectacular hit, grossing a huge $264 million worldwide. (Check it out here,) But after the second one, the massive flop, that awful movie, the series was over. I'm sure you've heard that, probably believe it, too. Likely hated the second movie. But this is the reality -- whatever one thinks of the second movie, it grossed (are you ready?) $259 million worldwide. You can find the reality here. The sequel might have been a gut-wrenchingly terrible movie -- but it made a quarter of a billion dollars, virtually the same as the first.
And Myth Perceptions live on. Everywhere, it seems, but at the box office.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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