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Women at the Box Office: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

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While most Americans (and the world) are struggling financially, Hollywood had a great year. Box office revenue topped $10.6 billion, up 10 percent from 2008 (according to Hollywood.com) and many of the year end stories have talked about women both at the box office and as directors.

Here what IndieWIRE had to say:

This was truly a landmark year for women and film. Female-centered options dominated the indie landscape, with "Precious," the year's top grossing specialty release, leading the way. The film may have been directed by a man, but it featured an almost entirely female cast and most certainly raked in its box office due in large part to female audiences hungry for options. And beyond "Precious," there were surprisingly many. Christine Jeffs' "Sunshine Cleaning," Lone Scherfig's "An Education," Jane Campion's "Bright Star," Anne Fontaine's "Coco Before Chanel," Claire Denis's "35 Shots of Rum," Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," Cédric Klapisch's "Paris," Sebastian Silva's "The Maid," Cherien Dabis's "Amreeka"... It's an incredibly long list of often fantastic cinema.


And on top of all of it, these movies are making money. Of the top ten grossing limited released narrative films of 2009, four were directed by women ("Hurt Locker," "Sunshine Cleaning," "Coco Before Chanel," and "An Education"), and three more ("(500) Days of Summer," "Precious" and "Away We Go") were most certainly aimed at female audiences, and feature either a female co-lead ("Summer" and "Away") or a nearly all female cast ("Precious").

And don't forget the earlier pieces from the Wrap: "Look Who's Winning the B.O. Battle of the Sexes" and CNN.com: "Yes, Hollywood, Women Do Go to the Movies."

So 2009 had a confluence of good movies that were directed by women that made money and movies about women that people wanted to see.

So 2010 should be a year to build on these successes. Here's the problem. All the women who make movies at the studios released movies last year. It's not a big list to begin with. It includes Anne Fletcher, Nora Ephron, Betty Thomas and Nancy Meyers (am I missing anyone?) All those women were in action last year and none of them (except maybe Fletcher) releases a movie each year. On the indie from we also had films from other high profile women like Jane Campion, Mira Nair, Karyn Kusama, Sally Potter, and of course Kathryn Bigelow.

The question is how do we keep building on the success of 2009 when there won't be any big movies directed by women? There will be some strong women centric films like Sex and the City 2, the third Twilight installment as well as films from Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Heigl and an action pic from Angelina Jolie.

But those are movies directed by guys about women. We need those and several of them will be great, but we also need to see movies by women about women (and also about guys and other things.)

From what I can tell there are only a couple of women with films already scheduled for release in 2010 and they are all indies. We will have films like Please Give from Nicole Holofcener, Toe to Toe from Emily Abt, Fish Tank from Andrea Arnold (January 15), Last Night from Massy Tadjedin (March 19), The Runaways, from Floria Sigismondi (March 19). Other women with completed films but without a release date include Julie Taymor 's The Tempest, Niki Caro's The Vinter's Luck, Jodie Foster's The Beaver and Sophia Copolla's Somewhere.

There are a bunch more films that will roll out starting at Sundance including Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are Alright and Gurinider Chadha's It's a Wonderful Afterlife.

So the thing we all need to wrap around our heads early this year is that most all the women directed flicks will have smaller releases so we will all need to be vigilant and get our asses out to the theatres.

I don't want to give the powers that be (whoever the fuck they are) any ammunition to say that 2009 was a fluke either from a box office or a behind the scenes perspective.

Is anyone else concerned about this? Are there other movies coming out that I don't know about? Please share.

Box Office 2.0: The Biggest Stories of the 2009 Indie Box Office (IndieWire)

Look Who's Winning the B.O. Battle of the Sexes
(The Wrap)

Yes, Hollywood, women do go to movies
(CNN.com)

Originally posted at Women & Hollywood