More than any other Hollywood player, Walt Disney Studios has adroitly tapped into the strength of the female moviegoing audience, keeping this potent demographic in mind while cooking up everything from princess lines to “Let it Go”-style empowerment anthems.
“Right now Disney is pushing all the right buttons with regards to young girls,” said Eric Handler, a media and entertainment analyst at MKM Partners. “The ‘princess brand’ is a very, very strong brand.”
Analysts argue that “Frozen” gave a shot of adrenaline to a type of entertainment that had grown listless since the glory days of “Beauty & the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” by expertly mixing post-feminist depictions of women with royal fantasies. In the case of “Maleficent,” the reimagining of “Sleeping Beauty” managed to attract a crowd that was 60% female, providing welcome relief to the glut of male-skewing films in the marketplace. For its part, “Frozen” skewed 57% female.
Just look at the demographic breakdown of the debuts of such recent blockbusters as “The Amazing Spider Man 2” (61% male), “Godzilla” (58% male) and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (56% male) and it’s evident that women were giving the cold shoulder to this year’s crop of popcorn films. The rare exception was “Neighbors,” which used the power of Zac Efron’s washboard abs to attract an opening weekend crowd that was 53% female. Never bet against male objectification.
“‘Maleficent’ was aimed directly at women, and the market was ripe for a female-skewing hit,” Phil Contrino, VP and chief analyst, at BoxOffice.com, said.
Contrino notes that the last film that was aggressively geared at this particular crowd was the aptly titled “The Other Woman,” which attracted a debut audience that was 75% female when it opened in April.
Things get better next weekend when “The Fault in Our Stars,” a romantic drama about a terminal cancer patient who finds love, debuts, causing a spike in female crowds and tissue sales. Disney has argued that a lack of family-friendly options bodes well for “Maleficent’s” performance over the next two weeks. That may be true, but it will compete with that mid-budget weepie for female ticket-buyers.
As for Disney, the studio has another fantasy adventure aimed at young girls with next March’s “Cinderella,” signalling there’s no end in sight for stories about plucky heroines who may or may not need their prince.
Welcome to the post-“Frozen” era.