Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Women stars produce movie profits

August 6, 2015

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Via Wikimedia user David Shankbone.

This weekend, you can catch Meryl Streep in the debut of Ricki and the Flash, a comedy-drama about an aging rock star (yes, Streep.)

It will compete at the box office the newest Fantastic Four movie and Shaun the Sheep, a British stop-animation movie from the folks who brought you Wallace and Gromit.

Think Streep will be buried by an action picture and an animated one? Think again.

Hollywood has taken its fair share of criticisms for the lack of female leads in big superhero movies and other blockbusters, but women have proved they can prosper in comedies. A total of 10 comedies that debut this summer have female characters at the center of the film, according to Vanity Fair.

Amy Schumer is having as good of a year as any comedian has had in some time. Though her sketch show on Comedy Central hasn’t drawn big ratings, a number of individual segments have collected millions of views on sites like YouTube, making her one of the best comedians of the viral age. Her smart — some might say oversharing — comedic style even earned her a spot on Time’s list of the most 100 influential people.

It made for a great transition to the big screen. Her recent film Trainwreck brought in $30.2 million in its debut weekend, which surpassed expectations and drew a number of positive reviews. So far, Trainwreck has earned $82 million and is likely to cross the magic $100 million mark before Labor Day.

Before Trainwreck debuted, fellow female star Melissa McCarthy’s film Spy made $29 million in its opening weekend. Since then, it’s made more than $200 million worldwide, far surpassing its $65 million budget, according to Forbes.

By comparison, Hollywood considers a movie a success at $30 million. Producers cheer at $100 million, and anything above that for non-action films is considered a roaring success.

Former Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler might end up being the most successful on the list with her role in one of the summer’s biggest surprises, Inside Out. Despite being a film for kids, Poehler and the rest of the cast brought enough humor to make it funny for the entire family.

Inside Out earned a big $90 million at the box office over its opening weekend, just behind the behemoth Jurassic World, which earned more than $100 million in its second weekend. Worldwide, Inside Out has made more than $600 million since its release in June, according to Box Office Mojo.

Beyond the summer, Poehler teams up with her friend and Weekend Update colleague Tina Fey in the highly anticipated Sisters, which is due out this December. There’s even a new all-female Ghostbusters in the works with McCarthy and Kristen Wiig.

Even with all these roles, however, Hollywood still has some catching up to do, as New York magazine points out. In 2014, more than three-quarters of starring roles in the top-grossing films went to male actors.

But when given the chance, a number of comedies with female leads have shown they can match and even outperform their male counterparts.

Despite a number of celebrity cameos, Entourage only made $10 million in its opening weekend, well below Spy. Ted 2 debuted with $33 million in its opening weekend, just a couple million past Schumer’s Trainwreck.

For story ideas, keep an eye out for more films that have women in leading roles. Ask your local theaters how well they’ve performed and if their customers want more movies like them. You can also use the issue to connect with your audience online and through social media. Set up a poll asking if there should be more movies with female leads or on favorite comedies of the summer.

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