What’s interesting is that, when you look back over the opening weekend box office record-breakers, “New Moon” is sort of the odd man out. Or, more accurately, odd woman out. Look at the list, the franchises represented there: “Star Wars,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Batman,” “Indiana Jones”… lots of male-oriented stuff. This isn’t to say that only boys can like “Star Wars” or that there aren’t a few gender-neutral/family-friendly title-holders — I’m looking at you “Harry Potter,” and you too, “Shrek” — but the trend definitely seems to favor the boys. That on its own is noteworthy. Dig a little deeper, and some questions start to surface.
Snap quiz: what’s the single-largest domestic gross in the history of film? James Cameron’s “Titanic,” the 1997 doomed love story starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and a giant, sinking ship. The real boat might have been lost, but the “Titanic” ship sailed to a cool $600+ million in domestic ticket sales, a record it still holds today. I’m going to make a prediction now: once the saga has run its course, one of those four “Twilight” movies will breach the all-time domestic gross top ten, if not top five.
The take away here as far as I’m concerned is that there’s a lot of value in the ladies-friendly blockbuster, but it’s a formula that studios have failed to really exploit. Looking to “Titanic” and “Twilight” as key examples, I feel like it’s the spectacle — an integral component to any blockbuster — that ultimately makes the difference.
Look at “Titanic”: we spend more than an hour watching all hell break lose as the ship slowly sinks. It all plays out as a backdrop to Leo and Kate’s love story, but it’s hard to miss the crossover appeal. Now look at “Twilight”/”New Moon”: even without the fangs, without holy water and crosses, garlic, gallons of blood — the usual trappings — you’ve got what is fundamentally a movie about vampires. It’s all a backdrop once again, to RPattz and KStew’s love story. “Twlight” slightly less so because there’s relatively little action in it, but “New Moon” has definably crossover moments with the werewolves, the Volturi encounter, the return of Laurent. And it’s only moreso in “Eclipse.”
Compare these to something like “Sex and the City,” which could very well be construed as a ladies-oriented blockbuster. There’s virtually no crossover appeal here; it is a straightforward adaptation of the HBO series. And it’s notably nowhere to be found on the top 100 all-time domestic grosses. The only other definably female-oriented entry on the top grossing list is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” at #59 (though some might argue for “Gone With the Wind,” at #95).
I think the enduring success of “Titanic” and the staggering performance so far of “New Moon,” of the “Twilight” franchise in general (it will only get better, make no mistake), point to a trend that Hollywood would do well to crack: blockbusters for women. I don’t really think it’s as simple as layering spectacle behind a love story, but that’s certainly what’s worked so far.
Really, I want to get your opinions on this. I think there’s a serious dialogue to be had here. I am obviously not a woman. This line of thought grew out of a post-“New Moon” discussion I had with Brooke Tarnoff, a lovely and talented editor at PopEater. There’s real substance here, as evidenced by “Titanic”’s reigning position atop the chart even now, more than a decade after its release. Not to mention the near-unmanageable levels of “Twilight” craze that have been unleashed in the past 12 months.
So what say you, ladies? Do you feel that Hollywood is properly servicing your needs for quality popcorn entertainment? What is it about the average blockbuster that appeals to you? What would you like to see more/less of?