(IMPORTANT UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF THE POST)The headline almost reads like a joke doesn’t it? You’d half expect that it’s April 1st and that this must be some sort of gag article like “The Onion” or something. Even when my friend Peter sent me this I myself had to check and re-check the source because it’s just so ludicrous sounding. But apparently, Warner Bros. has adopted a new policy of rejecting any movie that has a female lead character.
First the relevant information. This comes to us from DeadlineHollywoodDaily which is an entertainment business blog run by LA Weekly writer, Nikki Finke, who recently won Entertainment Journalist Of The Year from the 2007 Southern California Journalism Awards. It reads like this:
This comes to me from three different producers, so I know it’s real: Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov has made a new decree that “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead”. This Neanderthal thinking comes after both Jodie Foster’s The Brave One (even though she’s had big recent hits with Flightplan and Panic Room) and Nicole Kidman’s The Invasion (as if three different directors didn’t have something to do with the awfulness of the gross receipts) under-performed at the box office recently.
Ok, before going on too much here I want to be totally transparent and point out that I believe Warner Bros. is the single most ass backwards thinking studio out there (I know there are some VERY good people there… but in my opinion, the ship is run by morons who know no end to the limits of human stupidity, arrogance, ignorance and worst of all a manipulative evil that staggers the imagination. The foul steps of Warner Bros have been well documented around here, and I just wanted to say this upfront so you can interpret my commentary accordingly.
First of all, there is no denying that the biggest box office movies by far are the male lead ones. All one has to do is look at any annual box office reports and see the top 20-30 spots are usually reserved for “Men Only”. This however opens up the discussion on what is the CUASE of seemingly exclusive male lead only movies at the top of the box office. One can not simply ignore the fact that most of the movies out there that get green lit are male lead scripts. That’s just the fact. Studios are already making far more male lead films than female lead ones. So with a seemingly 10:1 ratio, it’s no surprise at all that 10:1 of the box office top spots go to men. HOWEVER, it also means that 10:1 BOTTOM spots go to men… but I’ll address that in a moment.
One also has to take genre into account when looking at box office numbers in relation to gender. The top grossing films are USUALLY within the genres young male audiences gravitate to. Fantasy, adventure, action, Sci Fi. These are genres that target more of a male audience and also garner the majority of the Box Office crowd. I mean, no matter how good the upcoming George Clooney dramatic film “Michael Clayton” is, I guarantee you it won’t make $100 million… and that’s ok for what it is.
So can movies with female leads (the few of them that are actually made) be profitable? According the the backwards thinking Warner Bros brain trust “no”. But real numbers (a concept Warner Bros is unfamiliar with… hence their outrageous, numbers pulled straight out of their ass, claim that 70% of piracy came from Canada.. which was throughouly TROUNCED by each independent study and Warner has since backed off of) suggest that YES, female lead films CAN be profitable.
The Devil Wears Prada $124,740,460 domestic
Dreamgirls $103,365,956 domestic
The Queen $122 World Wide
Hairspray (2007) $118,096,909 domestic
Flightplan $220 million world wide
Princess Diaries over $130 million each world wide
It’s funny that one of the examples used was “The Brave One” (with Jodi Foster), which only made about $34 million. Ok, that’s not a good number. HOWEVER, when you look at a MALE lead film with a comparable theme, the Kevin Bacon film “Death Sentence”, both films on the surface about innocent people out for revenge for the taking of a loved one, you see that the FEMALE lead film more than tripled the performance of the male lead film. Death Sentence made just $9 million.
So if a studio will outright reject the notion of female lead films because The Invasion (which everyone knew was doomed to fail months before it ever hit theaters) or The Brave One… what do you do with flops like Grindhouse? What about Flyboys ($13 million), or Zoom ($11 million). How about Delta Farce ($8 million) or a real machismo film like The Condemned ($7 million)? Do we say: “Hmmm… male lead films flop. Therefore we hereby will only do movies starring animals, animated characters and aliens”? Obviously not.
Films with women as the lead characters are few and far between as it is. 90% fall into the genres that don’t usually excel at box office results… and the precious few that do get action/adventrue treatments are HORRIBLE films to start with (Catwoman, Elektra, Aeon Flux). So to suggest “Women in lead roles is the problem” is short sighted and asinine. And to me, that pretty much sums up Warner Bros.
I’ve emailed someone at Warner Bros asking them for a comment, so far I haven’t heard back. IF this report is true (there is always a chance this award winning journalist could be mistaken I guess) then the social repercussions of such thinking sends shudders down my spine, as it should for all of us. Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov must be fired and fired immediately, not just for incompetent business thinking (I’m not going to tell him how to run his business), but for a socially reprehensible move such as banning women.
After waiting for 9 hours, calling 2 different numbers and 3 email addresses, Warner Bros. Finally got back to me. A very nice woman from Corporate Communications got a hold of me (After my last message said that CBS News wanted to interview me tonight about the situation…THEN SUDDENLY they get a hold of me) and made this statement. It’s only fair to WB to openly share here with you what they said:
WB Rep – “Mr. Robinov never made that statement, nor is it his policy.”
TMB – “So are you saying it is not now, nor will be Warner Bros. policy to stop producing films with female leads?”
WB Rep – “Correct. That is not our policy. A blogger (assumably Nikki Finke) made a statement without giving us the opportunity to first respond.”
TMB – “All right, that’s all I needed to know. Thank you for calling me.”
Ok, so there you have it. Warner Bros. is now… 3 days after Finke’s article went online, and more than 9 hours after I was trying to get a statement from them… denying that Robinov said anything about stopping making films with female leads. This is of coarse predictable.
About an hour ago, a fellow movie webmaster called me and said “You know how this will play out right John? They’re going to finally call you back tonight or tomorrow, deny everything or say they were taken out of context. You just know they were hoping this would just quietly go away over the weekend”.
And he was right. I don’t personally believe for one moment that Robinov never said that statement. But that’s not what is important. The important thing here is that WB is not going to adopt this stupid policy. Maybe it’s because the blogshere blew it open and forced WB into this position… or perhaps it was a statement taken out of context. Don’t matter, as long as WB doesn’t do this, then we’ve got no (more) problem with them as a studio.
So I am no longer looking for a Boycott of WB. it doesn’t matter if they WERE planning this stupid policy or not… as long as they don’t that’s all that counts.