Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

June 2, 2008

No one who saw Sex and the City this weekend knows who this guy is.

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In which a woman who has never seen Sex and the City asks several guys a question about how the movie adaptation performed so well

Kim Hollis: Sex and the City, the theatrical adaptation of the HBO program starring Sarah Jessica Parker, opened to $56.8 million this weekend. In the process, it claimed the biggest opening weekend ever for romantic comedy as well as the largest debut for an R-rated comedy. How in the world did this happen?

Max Braden: You're asking us to read the minds of women! We can't *do* that! What I can comment on is that I think SATC had the broadest advertising saturation this year; I swear I saw more media about it than even Indy 4. From what I gather, the ensemble cast drew in an ensemble audience. Most romantic comedies typically focus on one girl mixing it up with one guy, and the audience reflects that: girl drags her boyfriend/husband with her. SATC seemed to really draw packs of women together who made seeing the movie an event. The four SATC actresses triggered a group response greater than Julia Roberts et al ever have on their own. I think the closest box office performance for a female ensemble is Charlie's Angels (which was also based on a TV series).

Pete Kilmer: Easy - you take a much beloved show from HBO that sold a ton of DVDs, gets replayed a ton on cable and voila! Okay, maybe not quite that easy or there would be a Deadwood movie. Sex and the City as a TV show was a cultural touchstone and water cooler show that set clothing and lifestyle trends that have rarely been seen. The female audience for movies has not been served in a blockbuster capacity in a long time. Seriously, it's been how long since a blockbuster romantic/comedy/lifestyle movie that hit big? The Devil Wears Prada? Maybe....this show has four engaging characters that its target audience wants to see. It's the Star Trek/Star Wars for the female moviegoers in that you have dedicated viewers wanting to see their favorites on the big screen.

Tim Briody: Kim, you know this is the worst question ever to ask a bunch of dudes. All I can suggest is that we really didn't know how much this show resonated with its target audience, and that fan base was more than willing to pay their ten bucks or more for a Girl's Night Out at the movies this weekend. I'm suspecting this might eventually lead to more movie adaptations of concluded TV shows since the chance for a solid payday is clearly there if the ratings/DVD sales are.

Les Winan: I have the feeling this would have been the perfect movie to test concert-like ticket pricing. If tickets had been $15 or $20 apiece for this movie, the largely urban, largely upper middle-class or wealthy fans of the show certainly would have paid it.

Joel Corcoran: We also need to look at the cultural zeitgeist around Sex and the City. This film wasn't just any romantic comedy - it had an immense and very devoted following. And not just among women, mind you. The whole feminine mystique (if you'll forgive the cliche) around the HBO series and now the movie was something that people embraced wholeheartedly as a cultural dynamic and a way of living. Fans didn't just go to this movie - they dressed up, molded themselves into the roles of the characters, and made an event out of it. For a moment, they lived their lives through the fictional lens of what they saw portrayed on screen and became part of the whole Sex and the City universe. Or, in short, they did the same things that Star Wars and Lord of the Rings geeks have been doing for years.

Calvin Trager: I have nothing to add but to say, I want my Deadwood movie!


Reagen Sulewski: It should only be shocking that women attend movies if you are also shocked that women like to do things like drive and vote. That Hollywood executives are shocked by this is the reason that Sex and the City is a story. I don't think you can endlessly repeat this formula because of the unique branding involved, though dozens will doubtlessly try, but it was something that was inevitable for someone to stumble across.

Les Winan: I never thought Big Brown/Triple Crown mania would help Sarah Jessica Parker's career so much. What great timing!

I'm all for a Deadwood movie as well...I would just be concerned that they'd have to tone it down to fit the MPAA's guidelines for an R rating.

David Mumpower: People have a tendency to do lazy analysis on titles like The Simpsons Movie, The X-Files and this. They wonder what the show's highest ratings were, multiple that by the cost of a ticket and view those numbers are a best case scenario for a theatrical release. In reality, it doesn't work like that. With syndication, DVD sales and VOD/Internet options, people have tons of ways to catch a show after it first airs. DVD sales in particular should not have been ignored here. Sex and the City had a box set finish in the top ten for television shows on DVD revenue three consecutive years. Ancillary success stories such as this do not get chronicled often since they don't make for sexy media cycles. I am certain information just such as this is why a Sex and the City movie was greenlighted at a $60 million budget in the first place. There was a comfort level in knowing that the film would make money on home video. Could they have anticipated beating Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Given that Hollywood Reporter and Variety still were not predicting it last Thursday, I doubt they would have 18 months ago. The wave did not become a tsunami until such a time as the group viewing parties idea propagated, but the built-in fan base was always much, much larger than was being acknowledged.

James Wood: One thing I'd like to comment on with regard to the group dynamic is how "ring leaders" might have played a role. For example, my wife was not planning on making me go see this with her. And she wouldn't have gone to see it alone and probably didn't care about seeing it enough to take the initiative to call up a friend and make plans to see it. She would have been fine catching it on cable.

However, when one of her friends reached out to her, she jumped at the opportunity to go.

I think that is significant.

In other words, you really only needed to convert a bunch of what I am going to call "ring leaders" who then did the legwork of multiplying that audience by three to four times. What I'm getting at is that in every group of four women who saw it, you probably only really had one woman you could have counted on to show up on opening night. and two others who were 40-60% to see it, and one who was under 40%. so, as individuals, it probably didn't look like a strong play. but a whole casual fan base was tapped into because of the group dynamic.

In fact, that's probably the exact scenario I heard played out on the street. Two women didn't really care about going and would have even preferred going to see Iron Man again, but probably wound up going because their ringleader friend already bought tickets for them.

Kim Hollis: I just don't understand women at all.

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