In her 2014 Best Actress Academy Award acceptance speech for Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett thanked the audiences who went to see the film and then said -
There are those of us in the industry who are foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.
This was rightly met with thunderous applause.
I don't know where Cate will be this Thursday, November 5th, but I believe she would be thrilled about Arclight Cinemas' inaugural Women In Entertainment summit, a full day (8:30am to 5pm) of forward-thinking conversations exploring a variety of topics that greatly impact women: from human rights and women's leadership to storytelling across platforms and empowering the next generation of women to emerge as creative powerhouses. All events will take place in Hollywood's iconic Cineramadome on Sunset Boulevard.
Cate Blanchett's 2014 Academy Award acceptance speech
Created and hosted by ArcLight Cinemas' Executive Vice President Gretchen McCourt, the Women In Entertainment Summit will feature keynotes by Academy Award winner Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Women In Film President Cathy Schulman.
I recently spoke with McCourt about how this event came about.
About a year ago I was noticing wonderful female-driven films like Wild, Gone Girl, The Good Lie, and it made me take notice. I wanted to get everyone in the same room to further the conversation and take the next steps in telling women's stories. I'm thrilled to have both Women In Film, and The Geena Davis Institute participating. The conversation has been very strong this past year. Meryl Streep funded The Writers Lab, the screenplay program for female screenwriters over the age of 40. Jennifer Lawrence spoke out on the discrepancy in pay between leading female vs leading male actors. There's something in our culture where women don't want to speak up because it might be perceived as greedy, or not nice, but it's about getting what you're worth.
Geena Davis explains,
The only way to create change is to have key entertainment industry decision makers take the lead by driving opportunities for women on-screen and behind the scenes.
And for all of the men out there interested in checking this out, McCourt welcomes them wholeheartedly. She says,
This summit is for everybody. It's a little sad that people think of women working in film as a cause because more than half the world are women, but it is a cause and we do need a call to action. It's a little ridiculous that it took the Academy over 80 years before honoring the first woman director (Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009). And for the record, not one woman has been nominated since. The statistics are still pretty unfortunate when you look at the number of female directors in the DGA, and the number of female directors that create more than one film - it's an extremely low number. Arclight Cinemas is committed to always have films onscreen by women - or films showcasing strong female-driven stories. I want that to always be an option here. Arclight Cinemas is a place where we can discuss different topics in the industry and get women's stories told.
The trailer for Codegirl, an acclaimed documentary film to screen at Arclight as part of the Women In Entertainment summit...
Cate Blanchett was right. Female driven films ARE profitable and bankable so why aren't more being made? In May of this year, two very different female-driven films Mad Max: Fury Road starring Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa and comedy/musical Pitch Perfect 2 with Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfeld opened the same weekend and killed the competition. Both movies more than doubled their money in total worldwide grosses.
Other 2015 female-driven box office juggernauts include Amy Schumer's Trainwreck ($139 million worldwide), Melissa McCarthy's Spy ($236 million worldwide), Cinderella (over $530 million worldwide), Fifty Shades of Grey (nearly $600 million worldwide). The brilliant animated feature, Inside Out, about a young girl's inner-emotional development is the year's third highest grossing film (over $350 million).
In the span of four films, the Twilight franchise starring Kristen Stewart grossed over a billion dollars. The Hunger Games franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence has grossed Lionsgate $2.2 billion so far.
These numbers are not "niche experiences."
And of course it's not just about box office grosses. In the long run, it's about quality storytelling and filmmaking. Noteworthy November/December 2015 releases directed by women include Patricia Riggen's The 33, Angelina Jolie's By The Sea, and Tara Subkoff's #horror. Onscreen this fall we will see Dame Maggie Smith in The Lady In The Van, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in Sisters, Jennifer Lawrence and Virginia Madsen in Joy, Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl and more cinema magic from Cate Blanchett in Carol (my personal favorite trailer of the year). Two stellar documentaries on female entertainers also emerge in the final months of the year: Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words and Janis: Little Girl Blue directed by Amy Berg.
McCourt's hope is that the Women In Entertainment summit at Arclight Cinemas becomes not just annual but, ideally, quarterly. Planning for 2016's events are already underway due to the strong demand to participate in Thursday's events. Thank goodness.
For the full lineup and ticket information, check out: