We already know that female-driven films can dominate at the box office, but that point was hammered home in June by early summer blockbuster Spy. The Melissa McCarthy-led espionage flick (directed by frequent collaborator Paul Feig) debuted in the top spot for the weekend of June 5-7, far ahead of the brotastic Entourage which finished firmly in fourth place. But remind me again why studios spend so much time telling stories about men?
Spy, which drew an 60% female audience, earned a cool $30 million in a generally lackluster weekend (as compared to 2014), beating out disaster flick San Andreas and Insidious: Chapter 3. Entourage, a silver screen continuation of the hit HBO series starring Adrian Grenier, pulled in just $17.8 million between June 3-7.
Despite the drop in ticket sales overall, the weekend is being viewed as a well-deserved victory for McCarthy. Already established as a queen of Hollywood comedy (bow down), Spy is her first solo project after proving herself in a bevy of hilarious ensemble films. Bridesmaids and The Heat (to a lesser extent) are already modern classics, but McCarthy as The Leading Lady is finally getting her due. Spy showcases the comedian’s mastery of physical comedy without filling the script with a bunch of fat jokes. Imagine that. And it’s a telling contrast to the beers and broads of Entourage.
Producers were hoping for a $20 million return on Entourage in its first weekend. But generally dismal reviews and a legion of jokes before the movie even premiered seemed to doom the Doug Ellin-directed film from the start. “Watching the movie is like finding an ancient issue of a second-tier lad mag—not even Maxim, but Loaded or Nuts—in a friend’s guest bathroom,” The New York Times’ A.O. Scott snarked. “You wonder how it got there. You wonder how you got there.”
So have we finally evolved to a time in which seeing a group of men scoring hot chicks, acting like dumb and horny teenagers despite themselves being firmly past adolescence and interacting with a few hundred celebrity cameos isn’t a major draw? The box office numbers don’t lie; audiences just aren’t clamoring to see Vince and his buddies make the same mistakes on the big screen.
HBO reportedly was hoping to launch a successful Entourage film franchise in the same way they did another hit show, Sex and the City. The relative failure of Entourage (at least in terms of its viability as a film series) should tell the network something important: even after 11 years, a series beloved and watched by women is still more bankable than a similar program targeting men (and only four years off the air).
Indeed, while not measuring up to the numbers of last June’s “Fault In Our Stars” and “Maleficent” (films about a teenage romance and female sorcerer, respectively), 2015 has already been a strong year for women on screen. With Spy leading this weekend, Mad Max: Fury Road, what many are calling an aggressive, beautiful homage to badass, dystopian ladies, passed the milestone of collecting $300 million worldwide. At the same time, Pitch Perfect 2, a much happier film almost exclusively featuring young women—and helmed by first-time director Elizabeth Banks—has so far taken home $250 million worldwide as well.
Spy, Fury Road and the second Pitch Perfect couldn’t be more different when it comes to content, which puts a triumphant cherry on top of an already positive story. Not only are women dominating right now, but they’re doing it across genres. Because breaking news alert: women aren’t all one homogeneous group.
McCarthy summed it up nicely when talking to Ellen DeGeneres last year about a particularly tactless critic who wrote that he was offended by her physical appearance in (the less well-reviewed) 2014 comedy Tammy. “I just think that we tear down women in this country for all these superficial reasons, and women are so great and strong,” she said.
This summer’s biggest lesson seems to be that Hollywood, no longer able to ignore women, now needs to focus on improving the quality of its female-driven and female-targeted offerings. Well, that plus the fact that the all-female Ghostbusters reboot is going to kill at the box office.