It’s summertime, meaning movie studios are mounting their assault of big-budget films on theater-goers. This is a high-stakes season for movie studios because those blockbusters can be big cash cows when they succeed or huge money pits if they fail.
One interesting development this blockbuster season has been the success of The Heat. The Heat is an odd-couple police comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. In addition to being popular among critics and viewers, it has also been a success at the box office, earning nearly $86.4 million in the U.S. in about two weeks, which looks great next to its $43 million production budget. One hundred-million dollars in ticket sales should be in reach.
The Heat has a quality about it very uncommon in Hollywood—a summer-time movie with female leads. The conservative media have long painted Hollywood as being home to liberals and progressives, a designation Hollywood has seemingly embraced. However, the fact is that certain aspects of the film industry have been stuck in the 1950s – movies with female leads are rare. Sure there are a lot of women playing romantic interests, but it’s seldom Hollywood gives us a movie where most or all of the main characters are female. In recent years, this trend has been reversing, with releases like Sex and the City, Mamma Mia! and Bridesmaids putting up big box office numbers on the backs of female-dominated casts.
In the grand scheme of things, The Heat will probably turn out to be a modest success. As of July 7, it is the 19th-highest grossing film of 2013. Still, it is the most recent example that movies can market to women through avenues other than genres starting with the word “romantic.” Perhaps the recent success of films with female leads will cause studios to consider something other than white men as the money-making paradigm for summer blockbusters.