‘Gone Girl,’ ‘Annabelle’ Show Strength of Female Audiences

Female audiences powered “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle” to the top of the box office charts this weekend, showing the ticket-buying heft of a demographic that Hollywood ignores at its own peril.

Women made up 60% of “Gone Girl’s” opening crowd and 51% of “Annabelle’s” premiere audience. The films bowed to $38 million and $37.2 million, respectively, among the best October debuts in history.

This follows on the heels of premieres for such recent hits as “The Maze Runner” (51% female), “The Equalizer” (48% female) and “No Good Deed” (60% female), which demonstrate that women will turn out for films in a wide variety of genres with as much if not more consistency than their male counterparts.

“Once again, female audience are driving the box office and not just with young adult movies or films aimed just at women, such as romantic comedies,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “The female audience is vitally important to the health of the business.”

Despite that, many blockbusters feature women as eye candy, wives, mothers or girlfriends, instead of central figures with passions and interests beyond their relationships to the men in their lives or their ovaries. While women comprise 51% of audiences, executive suites at film studios and theater chains remain boy’s clubs.

Horror is a style of film most commonly associated with men, but that perception is dangerous and false. Women have shown an appetite for onscreen thrills and chills in the past, providing 53% of the opening crowd for “The Conjuring,” 56% of “The Purge’s” inaugural audience and half of the premiere contingents for “As Above, So Below” and “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.”

In the case of “Gone Girl,” female talent helped inspire interest in the dark thriller. The film and the book on which it was based were both penned by Gillian Flynn and “Gone Girl” provides one of the meatiest roles this year for an actress with the lead role of a seemingly perfect wife with secrets. It’s the kind of flawed, but brilliant character seen in shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” or films such as “The Social Network” or “American Beauty” that are usually reserved for men.

Unsurprisingly, it’s also a performance that propelled Rosamund Pike into the Oscar hunt and one that understandably had the likes of Reese Witherspoon chasing the part before director David Fincher opted to take a chance on a relative unknown.

Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the film, was surprised the film’s audience was able to attract so many men along with women. It’s a testament to its ability to generate water cooler conversation, he argued.

“It’s an analysis of marriage in a way that’s not done been done before,” he said.

There’s something for everyone. Even men.

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