Sorry, Cate Blanchett: I was wrong about ‘female films’ not making money

Many readers took me to task for my article that analyzed Oscar winner Cate Blanchett‘s (“Blue Jasmine“) declaration that “female films with women at the center” earn money.

Here’s a quick refresher of what went down:

Curious to see whether or not Blanchett was correct in her Oscar speech, I presented a list of 2013’s Top 30 money makers and noted that only four of those films headlined an actress as the first-billed star: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,”Frozen,” “Gravity” and “The Heat.”

Shocked by the results, I wagged my finger at Hollywood and scolded, “Things will need to dramatically shift in Hollywood from the ground up, starting at the screenplay level and continuing on up to the casting department.”

I (foolishly) assumed my point had been made about the film industry’s injustice regarding female-driven movies, but boy oh boy was I wrong! You roared back at me in the comments section.

Below, just a sampling of your rebukes.  

“Marcus this is so beneath your other written pieces, which are far more superior and usually a pleasure to read,” wrote Awardzilla.

“To be fair, she said they make money. She didn’t say they would dominate the box office from top to bottom,” said Denton.

“Oh, what a stupid article this is. The ‘facts’ as they’re laid out do NOT account for movies starring women that actually turned a profit — i.e., made money. Listing movies by box office gross alone is inaccurate and misleading,” declared FilmRush.

“i usually like your post dear sir. but i have to write this because i think your article didn’t go eye to eye with Cate’s speech. listing those movies is non-sense! of course there are more men-centric movies there with the usual action hero stories than female-centric ones because the system as it is dictates it,” commented Josel Garlitos.

To see many more of our readers’ colorful comments, click here and then scroll down to the bottom of the page.

What I failed to do — and what many of you were quick to point out — was analyze the box office reports of female-centric films compared to their production budgets. After all, as any economics professor will tell you, that’s how you know whether or not a film “earned money.”

Everybody who took the time to mention that aspect in the comments was dead on, and I thank you for the nudge in the right direction. The list I provided of the Top 30 films of 2013 was still incredibly relevant to the Hollywood bias against female stars, however it didn’t specifically address Blanchett’s claim and for that I apologize.

You all know what that means, right? It’s time to examine yet another list of box office results!

This time, we’ll only focus on films where a woman received first billing (i.e. “female films with women at the center”), comparing their initial production budgets to their domestic grosses. Since we looked at the Top 30 yesterday and only came up with four examples, this time we’ll broaden our search to the Top 150 films, the number it took me to finally find 30 female-led movies. (All budget estimates are courtesy of IMDB.)

#1 “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Jennifer Lawrence)
Production Budget = $130 million
Domestic Gross =$424 million
Profit = $294 million

#3 “Frozen” (Kristen Bell)
Production Budget = $150 million
Domestic Gross = $389 million
Profit = $239 million

#6 “Gravity” (Sandra Bullock)
Production Budget = $100 million
Domestic Gross = $270 million
Profit = $170 million

#15 “The Heat” (Bullock again)
Production Budget = $43 million
Domestic Gross = $159 million
Profit = $116 million

#31 “Epic” (Amanda Seyfried)
Production Budget = $100 million
Domestic Gross = $107 million
Profit = $7 million

#44 “Saving Mr. Banks” (Emma Thompson)
Production Budget = $35 million
Domestic Gross = $82 million
Profit = $47 million

#47 “Mama” (Jessica Chastain)
Production Budget = $15 million
Domestic Gross = $71 million
Profit = $56 million

#48 “Safe Haven” (Julianne Hough)
Production Budget = $28 million
Domestic Gross = $71 million
Profit = $43 million

#64 “Evil Dead” (Jane Levy)
Production Budget = $17 million
Domestic Gross = $54 million
Profit = $37 million

#67 “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell)
Production Budget = N/A
Domestic Gross = $51 million
Profit = N/A

#68 “The Call” (Halle Berry)
Production Budget = $13 million
Domestic Gross = $51 million
Profit = $38 million

#78 “August: Osage County” (Meryl Streep)
Production Budget = $25 million
Domestic Gross = $37 million
Profit = $12 million

#81 “Carrie” (Chloe Grace Moretz)
Production Budget = $30 million
Domestic Gross = $35 million
Profit = $5 million

#82 “Philomena” (Judi Dench)
Production Budget = $12 million
Domestic Gross = $34 million
Profit = $22 million

#83 “Texas Chainsaw 3D” (Alexandra Daddario)
Production Budget = $10 million
Domestic Gross = $34 million
Profit = $24 million

#85 “Blue Jasmine” (Cate Blanchett)
Production Budget = $18 million
Domestic Gross = $33 million
Profit = $15 million

#87 “Side Effects” (Rooney Mara)
Production Budget = $30 million
Domestic Gross = $32 million
Profit = $2 million

#89 “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (Lily Collins)
Production Budget = $60 million
Domestic Gross = $31 million
Profit = Lost money

#95 “The Host” (Saoirse Ronan)
Production Budget = $40 million
Domestic Gross = $26 million
Profit = Lost money

#104 “Baggage Claim” (Paula Patton)
Production Budget = $8.5 million
Domestic Gross = $21 million
Profit = $12.5 million

#106 “The Book Thief” (Sophie Nelisse)
Production Budget = N/A
Domestic Gross = $21 million
Profit = N/A

#111 “Admission” (Tina Fey)
Production Budget = $13 million
Domestic Gross = $18 million
Profit = $5 million

#113 “Enough Said” (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Production Budget = N/A
Domestic Gross = $17 million
Profit = N/A

#114 “Dark Skies” (Keri Russell)
Production Budget = $3.5 million
Domestic Gross = $17 million
Profit = $13.5 million

#120 “The Last Exorcism Part II” (Ashley Bell)
Production Budget = $5 million
Domestic Gross = $15 million
Profit = $10 million

#121 “Labor Day” (Kate Winslet)
Production Budget = $18 million
Domestic Gross = $13 million
Profit = Lost money

#140 “The Bling Ring” (Katie Chang)
Production Budget = $15 million
Domestic Gross = $5 million
Profit = Lost money

#141 “Pulling Strings” (Laura Ramsey)
Production Budget = N/A
Domestic Gross = $5 million
Profit = N/A

#146 “The To Do List” (Aubrey Plaza)
Production Budget = $1.5 million
Domestic Gross = $3 million
Profit = $1.5 million

#149 “In a World” (Lake Bell)
Production Budget = N/A
Domestic Gross = $2 million
Profit = N/A

As you can see, Blanchett was correct that female films do make money. Assuming the production budgets are accurate, my (amateurish) calculations result in a rather impressive Hollywood profit margin of around $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion.

Keep in mind, though, that the domestic box office total for all films released in 2013 was a record-high $10.9 billion, with pure profit likely being somewhere closer to the $5 billion mark after production budgets are removed from that total. That means the profit from female-driven films only accounted for about a fifth of last year’s film revenues.

Of course, that low number is mostly due to the the fact that there just aren’t enough female films being made to begin with, not that people aren’t seeing them. And hey, wasn’t that ultimately the point Blanchett was trying to make in her Oscar speech in the first place?

Whichever way you count up the bling-bling, one thing is clear. Hollywood, if you’re reading this, it’s time for a change.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section at the bottom of this post. 

9 thoughts on “Sorry, Cate Blanchett: I was wrong about ‘female films’ not making money

  1. I find it very strange that someone writing for an entertainment website doesn’t seem to understand that films make money outside of the USA…Maybe re-write the article again and call it “sorry Cate. I was wrong about female films not making money in the USA!” Lets not forget that Blue Jasmine made $61,600,000 outside of the USA. Rememeber the boxoffice for a film doesn’t stop at the US border!

  2. I think what Cate was getting at was how the film industry don’t produce many films with females in leading roles, so by looking at the top 30/100 films of last year, you can clearly see it’s ridiculously male oriented in leads, but of those films which starred women in leading roles, they made money too, so more films like it can and should be released

  3. Sorry to say this, but I don’t think this data is accurate. We have to count the WORLDWIDE GROSS and the Budget. Actually “Blue Jasmine” is the second highest-grossing film of Woody Allen):

    BLUE JASMINE:
    Budget: $18 million
    Box Office: $94 million
    Profit: $76 million

    And some examples of 2013:

    THE HUNGER GAMES 2:
    Budget: $130 million
    Box Office: $863 million
    Profit: $733 million

    GRAVITY:
    Budget: $100 million
    Box Office: $704 million
    Profit: $604 million

    FROZEN:
    Budget: $150 million
    Box Office: $1 billion
    Profit: $850 million

    THE HEAT:
    Budget: $42 million
    Box Office: $229 million
    Profit: $187 million

    And the list goes on…

  4. very insightful article…but i felt both articles you wrote were insightful. And I admire how you took your critics comments and did more invesigation as opposed to simply getting defensive which most would have done, for that I applaud you.

  5. FilmRush – they’re not crabby, they were all absolutely right in calling him out on his bias, ignorance, and the hint of sexism in his posts.

  6. Why is the writer always referring to a “top __” list? Blanchett’s point was that they MAKE MONEY, meaning they turn a profit, not that they will necessarily land on top 50 grosses lists.

    Blue Jasmine was Woody Allen’s biggest opening ever, the highest opening of an indie last year, and his second-highest grossing film. Woody Allen works on a shoestring. The budget was not greater than 1.5 million, and it grossed almost $100 worldwide (on that note, what’s with the pathetic domestic bias) – so it was PROFITABLE – it MADE MONEY.
    A film like Blue Jasmine is actually more profitable than a film like Wolf of Wall Street.

  7. In addition to the problems other people pointed out about not counting world grosses, there are other problems with these calculations, namely, they understate costs and overstate revenues. The production budget doesn’t cover all of the costs, specifically marketing and distribution costs, and those add at least $25 million to most wide releases and likely more for many. And the studio keeps, on average, only about half of the gross, so to use the gross as the basis to determine whether a film made money is inaccurate and makes it seem as though many films that lost money actually were profitable. You really show know these basic things if you’re writing about film on a major website.

  8. Marcus, you’re totally awesome to write a follow-up article. I admire your thick skin. I think the main problem with the other article was that the title read in a different way than you probably meant it. And I did miss the point of the other article when I read it. Sorry I didn’t pay more attention to what you were saying.

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