New Moon Brings a New Dawn in Hollywood

by Melissa Silverstein on November 23, 2009

in Box Office

On Friday morning Hollywood woke up to the realization that fangirls can be as rabid as fanboys.  By Saturday morning they realized that two BIG records had been broken, including the highest midnight screening opening and the best opening date in history.  On Sunday morning, they woke up realizing that New Moon had not only shattered all even optimistic expectations, it had coattails helping to fuel a big and unexpectedly good weekend at the box office  Entertainment Weekly wrote that: “this one of the most lopsidedly female-driven weekends in Hollywood history.”

Here are the numbers:

  • New Moon made $140 (Updated: 142.8 million) dollars this weekend.
  • It made more on Friday than Twilight did it’s first weekend.  That means the franchse is growing in strength.
  • New Moon has the THIRD biggest opening weekend numbers.
  • Women accounted for 80% of the tickets buyers; and were divided evenly between women under and over 21.
  • The film also kicked butt overseas bringing in over $118 $124.1 (Updated) million overseas.
  • The film scored a high A- in exit polling done when people left the theatre.

TOTAL WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: $258 $266.9 (updated) million for the weekend.

And while everybody expected New Moon to be big (but not this big) what is more astounding to me is how well Sandra Bullock’s movie did opening opposite the juggernaut.  The film actually performed way better than industry estimates which were at best $20 million and it cements Bullock back as a powerhouse.  The Blind Side topped her great opening this summer with The Proposal bringing in $33.6 million.

The film, more than New Moon, showed the power of women, even the much maligned older woman.  The film’s success was built on 59% female ticket buyers with 75% of them being over 25.   If you really think about it, it is older women who made this weekend a huge success because 50% of the audience for New Moon were over 21, and 75% of The Blind Side‘s audience were over 25.

AND let’s not forget Precious.  The film widened to over 600 screens and took in $11 million and is still raking in high per screen averages.  It will roll out wider this holiday weekend.

So what does this mean?

It seems to me that while Hollywood felt comfortable dismissing Sex and the City, Mamma Mia (because the audiences for those were primarily over 25), and even Twilight (as a one time wonder), there is no way that these numbers could be dismissed as a fluke.  THEY ARE JUST TOO BIG.  Women and girls are looking for material that they connect with just as much as guys and boys are, but they thing that blows me away about the success of New Moon and even The Blind Side is that the theatres were just packed with women not caring if the guys came with them.  This was a weekend where the gals went in bunches and left the guys home cause they wanted to see this movie more than they wanted to see whatever their boyfriends or guyfriends wanted to see.

As I’ve harped on FOREVER there is an audience out there hungry to see films that appeal to them.  I’m not trying to say that all women’s films will be as successful as New Moon because that’s silly.  These kinds of movies come along rarely cause Hollywood hardly makes them.  But this weekend’s number indicate that they should make more of them.

I think we need to keep New Moon in perspective.  Like I stated above, these films come along rarely and Hollywood has a tendency to try and replicate successes very quickly.  Lots of times those replications don’t work.  I think the actual film New Moon suffered because it was rushed to the screen.  But that didn’t matter one iota to the fans.  They loved it.

I think this is an opportunity for Hollywood to be smart and creative and to think about how to build on the women’s market because it is clearly out there.

But don’t think that New Moon‘s huge success doesn’t give me pause.  The misogyny which I have been told about (and refuse to read) that has made it’s way onto the web calling girls stupid and screaming idiots and worse (so typical) for enjoying the film makes me angry.  Because we have had so few films that has a woman at its center do as well as New Moon it is being held to an absurd standard.  Yes, I wish the film would have been better.  I thought it was cheesy and the last third was just useless (a total waste of Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen’s talents.)

I love how people are complaining about the objectification of Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson.  Now you’re upset about the fact that movies taunt and flaunt? The only thing that makes this different is that Megan Fox had to keep her short shorts on in Transformers, and Taylor Lautner spent most of New Moon with his shirt off.  If you’re going to complain about these guys being sexualized, you will have a hard time getting anyone to take you seriously.  Women are sexually objectified in basically every Hollywood film.

But at the end of the day the success of New Moon (there are many other people having better conversations about the content of New Moon and whether it sets back women and if it is anti-feminist), is a HUGE triumph, and has the potential to be a game changing moment in the film business.  The fact that a film fueled by woman power and starring a woman has called such waves in Hollywood is unprecedented.  The business must figure out ways to build on it.  If they don’t they are squandering a huge opportunity and all their shareholders should have them fired.

New Moon Shines at Box Office (Variety)

New Moon Tops Foreign Box Office (Hollywood Reporter)


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy November 23, 2009 at 10:36 AM

For once I’m glad that film is a business, not art. I have one question for Hollywood. How can you ignore those numbers?

Jan Lisa Huttner November 23, 2009 at 10:43 AM

Most satisfying to me, Melissa, is how dumb, dumb, dumb Tony Scott’s comments in the 11/12 Sunday NYT look now:

Even dumber than they looked 2 weeks ago!

The movies are there & if WE support them at the box office, then barriers will fall, ceilings will crumble, & the world will truly be a better place. Do I really believe this? YES, I DO!

In the words of Martha Lauzen: “If we change media messages, we change the world.”

You Go, Girl!

Charles Judson November 23, 2009 at 10:50 AM

To put that 80% in further perspective, THE DARK KNIGHT and TRANSFORMERS 2 both needed an almost even split of men and women (52% male/48% female and 56% male/44% female respectively) for their opening weekends. To go back further, even 300’s audience was 60/40). Boys alone do not a hit make.

Women spent much money on entertainment and even if some cynical marketing person wants to say it’s because women are going with their husbands and boyfriends, it still doesn’t change the fact you need them to help fill the house.

And I couldn’t be happier for THE BLIND SIDE opening so strong and I hope it holds up through the holidays.,com_myblog/show,What-the-Success-of-New-Moon-and-The-Blind-Side-Can-Do-For-Women.html/Itemid,48/

Michelle November 23, 2009 at 11:12 AM

The Blind Side can also be billed as a Football Movie or Sport Movie in the likes of a Bang the Drum Slowly and a Rudy.

So lets get it right: WOMEN made a SPORTS MOVIE a hit. Sink your teeth in that Hollywood movie moguls!

Next, we need to topple the attitudes about women viewers and female centric action movies.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist November 23, 2009 at 11:33 AM

I watched NEW MOON yesterday and it was an okay film. I agree with you, it’s hypocritical of the media to whine and complain about the so-called objectification of males in this film when women have always been objectified for a long time.

and YES, Taylor Lautner looks so hot, shirtless in the film. Yum.

Scott Mendelson November 23, 2009 at 11:49 AM

To really put that 80% figure in perspective, consider this: Even if not a single male attended New Moon this weekend, it still would have grossed $113 million, which would make it the top debut of 2009 and the eight-biggest debut of all time. God I wish the ‘test case’ would have been Whip It instead, but I suppose it’s good news in the long run.

Hannah Robbins November 23, 2009 at 12:18 PM

About twenty minutes ago, I got out of the New Moon screening and am pissed off for a number of reasons! First, I have a 12 year old sister who went to a friend’s birthday party (the friend is also 12) at a rented out movie theater to see the Twilight sequel. One mom there had seen the first movie 26 times. My mom told me after she saw this second film, she became a fan. This surprised me, but I thought if my mom likes it, surely it must be good. Tonight I went to see it, and I was very disappointed. All I saw was an 18 year old anorexic girl who can only be with her boyfriend by trying to commit suicide, and only finds her friend beautiful after he tears off his shirt. What my little sister can learn from this is that if you are skin and bone, depressed (well, maybe not when she’s lying in the water like a corpse), have no girlfriends, cut yourself, kill yourself, sell your soul, you can have the man of your dreams. What kind of message are we sending to young girls?! Even women my mother’s age? This is crazy!

I mean no offense to the actors or anyone else involved in the making of New Moon, but it saddens me that these are the kind of messages the media is giving females of all ages. Is this really what women want from Hollywood?

Sara November 23, 2009 at 1:35 PM

I’m sorry, I just can’t be excited that a movie that sounds as dumb and boring and sexist as New Moon does was successful. I’m glad to see proof that women and girls are a viable audience and that if you make movies with female leads people will see them – but let’s be honest, SATC, Mamma Mia! and New Moon are not “good”. Women see these movies because we have no alternatives. And I suspect their success will not prompt studios to make lots of movies about women with varied and interesting stories, but instead to continue pumping out sexist, pandering movies with weak stories and two-dimensional characters.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) November 23, 2009 at 2:02 PM

So, are you saying New Moon made more than Transformers?

New Moon & Transformer fans have both been identified as not the sharpest tools, not the most discerning audiences-
but one audience is decidedly female and the other male.
The female audience spent more money.
Wasn’t Titanic mostly a female audience as well….and Mamma Mia, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc. ,etc. ?!?

Tammy November 23, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Whether the movie is good or not is irrelevant. It shatters the perception that female driven films can’t make money. Studio execs do not understand anything other than the bottom line and this speaks their language.

julie November 23, 2009 at 2:50 PM

It’s a bitter half-victory when a franchise that is as BAD for women as Twilight “proves” female power at the box office.

Tammy November 23, 2009 at 4:20 PM

Of course, I would prefer it if “The Gloria Steinem” story made 140 million dollars over the weekend, but I’ll take what I can get.

Julia S. November 23, 2009 at 5:40 PM

I’m glad a movie that was immensely popular with women and girls, and not very popular with boys and men, has done huge boffo box-office.

I wish said movie weren’t a creepy love letter to passive aggression, obsessing about virginity, stalking, and suicidal acting-out.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) November 23, 2009 at 7:54 PM

Tammy, that was my point, exactly-
that the female audience spends more money than the male audience, so I’d like to know what the effe the reason is that so few female character driven films are made….and few female directors, writers, etc.
Being a woman who writes and directs in this male dominated industry that has forever used the BS excuse that it’s about money, well, I’m just calling BS with numbers to back me up this time.

MarianK November 24, 2009 at 2:39 AM

During Hollywood’s so-called Golden Era in the 30s, 40s and 50s, ‘women’s pictures’ were well up there on the box-office A-lists. The decline in the status of the women’s picture from the 60s onward seems to have operated in inverse proportion to the rise in women’s social status.

It’s not just a matter of female box-office bums on seats. Until Hollywood gets over its celluloid castration anxiety, it will always find a way to keep doing what it does best – subsuming female audiences into male fantasy.

Lou November 24, 2009 at 12:38 PM

I was coming in to express shock at the double-standard inherent in the complaints that New Moon objectifies men, and that there is still a need to prove that women are an audience (that Hollywood even needs proof is depressing). But instead I’m going to express shock that someone said Mamma Mia isn’t GOOD! Mamma Mia is brilliant fun!! And why the hell shouldn’t that be considered “good”?? I’m as big of a film snob as the next person, but Mamma Mia is so much fun I will happily watch it again and again and again – and not for lack of alternatives.

And even if these films aren’t “good”, 95% of the Hollywood films made for men are absolute shite so shouldn’t we as an audience be able to celebrate mindless fun in cinemas too?? (though again, I insist that Mamma Mia is a brilliant film! Well, in a certain kind of way…) Having big, visible, in-your-face, mainstream, money-making films about women and with women involved in key behind-the-scenes roles is most definitely a great start.

Kim D November 24, 2009 at 2:58 PM

I was listening to a reporter talk about New Moon on NPR yesterday, and he sounded utterly shocked at the numbers. Why is it so hard for men to fathom that we are 50% of the population? Art or crap, New Moon cracked the door open a few more inches. From what I’m hearing, I’m fairly certain that I would find this movie ridiculous (and probably a little offensive), but no more ridiculous than any of the male-oriented crap this town churns out to make a buck. The point is to prove that female-oriented work CAN make a buck. I’m doing a little happy dance tonight.

Allison November 24, 2009 at 11:14 PM

Apparently, some don’t think the film is a feminist victory:

Chris November 25, 2009 at 5:05 AM

On the one hand It’s a genuinely good thing that we’re possibly getting back to the period where ‘women’s pictures’ stood equal at the box office with movies that had a male character at their centre. The problem, having seen NEW MOON, is that ultimately I genuinely hope that in the future when another mega success comes the movies are alot better.

Though some of the TWILIGHT bashing from my fellow men/boys is sexist based the issue is that, at some point, nearly all the major women breakout movies are nothing more than, at best, guilty pleasures and disposable. Male oriented franchises like Nolan’s Bat Films or LOTH were/are critically acclaimed just as the likes of TRANSFORMERS isn’t.

Again and again the female oriented movies breaking records all seem to fall into the latter category and until we get back to the days of GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE WIZARD OF OZ etc where the product isn’t just seen as some fad then there will be a cause for celebration.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) November 25, 2009 at 8:18 PM

@ Alison,
No, it’s not a feminist film, yes it does prove that there is a female audience who will spend more than the male audience.
There is the triumph, not so much the content but the sheer numbers of females spending money on the movies.

Emily November 26, 2009 at 10:39 PM

Everything I could say about the feminist bittersweet victory that was New Moon has already been said, but I would like to throw in that Taylor Lautner is only 17 years old, and therefore to be disturbed by his objectification is certainly appropriate.

Melissa Silverstein November 29, 2009 at 10:04 PM

Just so I am completely clear – there are two different things to think about with Twilight- the content which people can have issues with regarding it’s lack of feminism and it’s success at the box office. I also think it’s funny and ironic that now people care about feminism in a film when no one gave a carp about it before.

j.osborn November 30, 2009 at 10:33 PM

Who exactly should care about feminism but feminists?. There is a lot of complaining about twilight so the criticism is not made out by the media to make Meyer look bad. There’s people who just think it’s lousy writing(which she has gotten from professional writers as well).

Is only natural that the mainstream media picks up that criticism.

So is sexism ok as long as is made for women?. Because that would justify every romantic comedy cliches ever made.

The only thing different about twilight is the level of obsession of some of the fans but i dont think thats something that should be encouraged, specially if it involves controlling manic depressive vampires that later rape the heroine.

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