Movies Aimed at Teenage Girls Bring Box Office Bank

June 13, 2014

In a recent interview with Conrad Wilson on American Pubic Radio’s “Marketplace” I shared my thoughts on the recent box office successes of girl driven teenage movies.

For more on the topic, please read on.

The Fault in the Stars, a teen drama about two young lovers bonded by Cancer was number one at the box office last weekend and beat out films such as Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise. Now the question everyone is asking is: how is that possible? It’s possible because of young girls who are out there in great numbers and are looking for good content. When they find it, they show up with their friends and their families and the result is big business—several billion dollars worth of big business.

The trend for female oriented youth movies started out with the stronger genre films such as Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent. These films, all based on books with huge followings, did extremely well at the box office (both the Twilight series and The Hunger Games‘ series have surpassed $1.5 Billion respectively in worldwide gross revenue.) These box office successes broke the barrier to making films targeted at young girls. Now the studios have more confidence in making movies for this demographic, which opened the door to other genres such as the teen drama The Fault in Our Stars to get made. In turn the studios are being rewarded because the girls are showing up again and again, creating repeat business, multiple engagements and additional revenue streams.

Gender biases are melting away and girls are dreaming of becoming Secretary of State or even President. Some may want to end hunger or educate the world about human trafficking. The young heroines in these movies feed into that mentality and give their followers the motivation and confidence necessary to go after those dreams. Whereas adults might find their water cooler moments in episodes of Mad Men or Breaking Bad, young girls are finding them in films and characters that inspire them to dream big and envision themselves taking part in their own destiny.

The current use of social media among this group has certainly magnified this phenomenon. Kids from around the world can connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and create a following around these books and movies in a way that was never possible before. This in turn changes the mentality of filmmakers, studio heads and financiers who cater to this audience with these viral conversations in mind.

Studios won’t ever shift away from the big tent pole movies. Blockbusters will always be a part of a studios portfolio because when they hit, they hit big. But industry executives are also aware that their buyers—exhibitors and advertisers—can’t sell all of their product to men ages 18-35. The advertisers and exhibitors need to feed the other part of the buying audience, and quality films with female characters are doing just that.

We are living in an era where parents are talking to their children and asking them what kind of movies THEY want to see. Studio executives are parents too—And they are listening. The success at the box office will empower more female writers and directors, and their male counterparts, to be more supportive and proactive as they realize that creatively and financially these films make sense.

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