NEW YORK — Can a pure chick flick become a hit? Yes, if it draws a diverse enough swath of female moviegoers. For "Sex and the City," that will be the big question.
There are indications that the film, which opens Friday, is attracting a lot of interest from women of all ages _ not just the age of the four lead actresses, who range from their early 40s to just over 50.
"We can't remember the last time a movie has created so much anticipation among female moviegoers from their 20s through their 40s," said Harry Medved, a spokesman for Fandango, the online movie ticket site.
Medved said many women seem to be planning to go in groups. "We are getting a surprising number of requests for group ticket sales from women planning 'Sex and the City' get-togethers," he said.
It's not just the ticket sellers who are noticing the trend. Abbey Greenberg, co-owner of a specialty cookie company, says she's been getting calls by the dozens for her stiletto-shoe creations.
"It's been crazy," says Greenberg, of The Flour Pot, which is based in Ambler, Pa. "They start out by saying they want the shoe cookies. Then they say they need them for May 30th. Of course it turns out it's for a 'Sex and the City' party."
Often, the hostesses say they'll be drinking Cosmpolitans before the movie, too _ the favorite drink, as fans of the HBO series well know, of sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw and her pals, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. Sometimes the hostesses add that they'll be dressing up in high style, as well.
"This movie just calls out for a girl's night out," says Greenberg, 27, who herself plans to see the film with a group of women, although not opening night, and not specially attired. "I'll wait until it's less crazy," she says.
Fandango, which is the largest online ticketing service but still represents a fairly small percentage of total sales, surveyed buyers who'd just purchased tickets for the film.
As of Friday, 67 percent of more than 2,800 who filled out the survey _ a self-selecting group, to be sure _ planned to see the film in a group of women. Only 6 percent said they were going with a man, and 16 percent said they were going with one other woman.
Oh, and asked their gender, 94 percent of ticket buyers said they were women.
You only have to look back two years to "The Devil Wears Prada," another female-oriented film heavy on fashion (with the same costume designer) and juicy female characters, to find a movie that scored big despite an overwhelmingly female demographic.
But there's a difference: "Prada" was rated PG-13, whereas "Sex and the City" is rated R, with good reason, as any fan of the often explicit series knows. That will severely limit the teen audience (those under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian).
"This movie really will be a paternity test for R-rated female-driven romantic comedies," said analyst Jeff Bock of box office tracker Reel Source. "There haven't been a lot of movies like this." Bock predicts the movie will have a strong opening weekend, then a big drop-off. "There's no getting around that this is a film oriented to women and gay men," he said. "It will be very hard to get past that, especially with a lot of testosterone-driven films out there this summer."
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" drew families in droves to achieve the second biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever, with an estimated $151.1 million in the U.S. and Canada from Thursday to Monday (and $160 million overseas.) By contrast, industry projections have "Sex and the City" bringing in from $25 to $40 million in its first three days.
Still, one analyst thinks "Sex and the City" may surprise skeptics.
"A huge female audience can create a blockbuster of a movie if there's enough interest," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC. "We're seeing that women from 20 to 55 are very interested."
To Dergarabedian, "Sex and the City" could be "a different kind of date movie" _ a date among girlfriends: "This should be a major bonding ritual."
But could there be a downside to all the buzz surrounding this heavily marketed film? The current issue of "Time Out New York" features Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte on the cover _ but with their mouths taped over.
"No Sex!" the cover reads. "Enough already. We love 'em, but it's just too much."