Theater Chief Says 2015 Will Be ‘Year of Women’ at Box Office

Women and family audiences will help drive 2015 to record-breaking box office numbers, predicted National Assn. of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian in a speech to exhibitors Tuesday at CinemaCon.

It’s a unique perspective. While most analysts are betting that the domestic box office will exceed $11 billion for the first time ever, their confidence is largely based on a slate of fanboy fare such as “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“2015 will rock at the box office because it will be the year of women,” Fithian said during remarks at CinemaCon, the annual exhibition conference unfolding this week in Las Vegas.

He noted that films like “Insurgent,” “Cinderella” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” featured women in leading roles and sold 60% or more of their tickets to women. That’s in stark contrast to the previous year, during which only 12% of starring roles were filled by women, according to research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

“We have so much more to come, with big female roles in horror, comedy, science-fiction, animation, family, western, thriller and action,” Fithian added. “Personally, I am so pleased that my daughter can see more women in leading roles than ever before.”

Fithian, who serves as theater owners’ top lobbyist through his role at NATO, also predicted that ticket sales would soar because there are more movies to appeal to viewers of all ages, noting that each month offers at least one major release rated either PG or G.

Many industry observers argue that the theatrical window is shrinking. “The Interview” attracted media attention after terrorist threats resulted in a patchwork digital debut and other companies such as Netflix have made a stir by opting to debut films simultaneously on their streaming services or by foregoing a theatrical release entirely. However, Fithian stressed that was an aberration and most major studios are committed to waiting 90 days between when a film bows in theaters and when it appears on home entertainment platforms.

In turn, he said that theater owners have become more willing to partner with studios on promotions such as SuperTickets that sell passes to films along with rights to future DVDs or digital downloads of a particular film.

“Though one-off and radical simultaneous release experiments garner some media attention, the reality is that major distributors believe that theatrical exclusivity drives the entire business,” Fithian said.

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