Sex and the Weekend Box Office
By David Mumpower
May 30, 2008
Unless you live at a monastery and have no daily contact with members of the fairer sex, you know what opens this weekend at the local Cineplex. Sex and the City, the theatrical adaptation of the 1990s HBO series, has undergone a dramatic transformation in terms of box office expectations in recent weeks. Originally viewed as a novelty title, a lesser version of The X-Files if you will, Sex and the City now stands as a true box office heavyweight.
In recent days, Reuters wire reports have grown from sporadic comments about the title's unique appeal to ones marveling at its drawing power. On Tuesday, 74% of women surveyed by Fandango indicated that they would see the film with a large group of female friends. By Thursday, those facts were verified as the nation's largest online ticket retailer reported 92% of their sales were Sex and the City purchases. With mega-titles Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in wide release, the latter of which only in its second weekend, this is a remarkable statistic. If you had asked any box office analyst a month ago if they believed such a feat to be possible, they would have laughed in your face. For that matter, the producers of Sex and the City might have.
So, we know that women are going to show up by the SUV load to watch Sex and the City this weekend. If you are wondering why, the answer lies in the tsunami of demand created by Hollywood's woeful under-serving of the demographic. Simply consider the fare Hollywood normally delivers 51% of their potential consumers. Try to name the last film release that was not a romantic comedy, something that could feature Emma Roberts or Amanda Bynes, a Jane Austen/Atonement type of period piece, or some voyage of self-discovery that may or may not occur in Tuscany. Face it. There are more women than men in this world yet Hollywood excludes them as a part of their basic modus operandi. I could go so far as to make an argument that many of the women who will see Sex and the City in a theater this weekend were last specifically targeted by such a major production all the way back in 1998 when they made Titanic the biggest movie ever. It's either that, the Grease re-release or an obscure 2002 gross-out comedy called The Sweetest Thing.
That last title, a female answer to There's Something about Mary, appears all the more remarkable in hindsight for somehow acquiring a $43 million budget. I honestly believe (and cordially invite readers to correct me if I'm wrong) that this was the last non-teeny bopper/period piece/romantic comedy to specifically target women. It just doesn't happen often. In point of fact, the normal writer of this column, Reagen Sulewski, humorously points out to me that when he did the forecast for The Sweetest Thing in 2002, the title was so novel that the only comparison he had for it was...wait for it...television's Sex and the City. We've come full circle now.
With so much information about pre-sales and sellouts in major metropolitan areas, it would be fair to say that if this were Major Title X instead of Sex and the City, people would have even higher expectations for it. There are two major catches, however. The first is that the only straight men going to this movie are either henpecked or trying not to get dumped. The second is that the very nature of this R-rated, urban release as defined in its title is that it is exclusive to larger areas. There remains some debate as to how it will play in Middle America. To date, all of the reported sellouts have occurred in major metropolitan areas.