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Sebastian Vital | Flickr.com

Sebastian Vital | Flickr.com

What does it take for a movie to be successful at the box office? Most people would probably say that successful movies require a good trailer and impressive reviews. Others would claim that big name actors and actresses are the key to drawing fans to the theater. Still others would claim that movies have the greatest advantage at the box office when they are part of a preexisting franchise. Some would simply say it is dumb luck. Everyone from movie directors to marketers to audience members have asked that question again and again. Why do some movies succeed when others fail? What is the key to having a successful box office run? According to a recent study by the Creative Arts Industry in conjunction with shift7 and Time’s Up, the answer to the age old question may be having a leading lady instead of a leading man.

The study analyzed 350 of the top grossing films between 2014 and 2017 and found that those with women in leading roles tended to make more money across differing budget levels despite the fact that movies with male leads outnumbered those with female leads by over two to one.

“Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films were generally less successful,” said CAA researcher Christy Haubegger. This was part of the reason that films such as “Tangled” and “Frozen” were not named after the lead female characters. It was believed that the emphasis on the female characters would limit audience interest. According to the new study, however, “the data does not support that assumption,” Haubegger said.

The study also ran the films through the Bechdel test. A movie passes the test if there are two female characters who have a conversation with one another about something other than a man. According to the study, films that passed the test greatly surpassed those that failed at the box office, and each movie that passed the Bechdel test made at least $1 billion at the box office.

“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” said former Sony Pictures President Amy Pascal. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”

Given the clear success of female-led films that have appeared recently, including “Wonder Woman” and “Moana,” as well as those that are still upcoming, such as “Captain Marvel,” Hollywood does, at last, seem to be listening.

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