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Voting with your dollars at the box office

As consumers, we vote with our dollars and attention.

That’s why I vote for movies I want to see by going to the theater on box office opening weekends.

To some people, this may seem antiquated. But I’ll break down why it’s still incredibly relevant. Understanding a bit of the distribution landscape may be helpful, so let’s start there.

Distribution Success Metrics

For major studios, box office numbers are a major success metric for a movie. (Opening weekend numbers are a form of instant gratification because theatrical releases are typically the first distribution window.) Box office numbers during an opening weekend are a tried and true means of seeing if a film will be a blockbuster or bust.

Distribution is an ever-evolving landscape, of course, as methods are always growing and changing. For example, VHS or DVD sales were a significant portion of income following theatrical releases back in the day.

Now, of course, we’re streaming content on demand, so those metrics are a big piece of the puzzle. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are big players in digital content distribution.

Distribution windows, platforms, and deals are a constant source of fascination for me. I never grow tired of seeking these case studies or following a title to see where it lands.

I could talk about it all day…but, let’s move on, shall we?

Why These Metrics Matter

Although film is a form of art, it’s also a business.

A lot of people love to argue about art v. business, but I’m talking here specifically about major studio productions – where financial viability is a must. In that world, movies, talent, studios, etc., are rated on their financial success. A-list celebs are likely to draw a crowd, for example, because they’re a known quantity.

A film that is financially successful typically begets more of its kind. If you’ve been wondering why the Fast & The Furious franchise keeps growing – even after one of its stars Paul Walker passed away in 2013 – it’s partly because these movies do well at the box office worldwide. Also, you don’t need to speak English or read subtitles to understand an action sequence, which aids in its worldwide success.

These metrics matter, especially for the kind of titles I want to support: films featuring strong female characters, marginalized voices, and inclusive practices behind-the-camera.

That’s because I want these films to be financially successful so that more of them are supported and created. I want the next generation to have more opportunities. I grew up thinking that I had to be an actress because I didn’t know directing was an option for a woman.

How I Vote

Now I make appointments to vote with money and attention when there’s something I really want to support. 

That’s because I know those metrics are important to the decision makers, powers that be, and gatekeepers in the industry.

Whether it’s a movie or a TV show, I typically support projects that feature strong female characters, champion marginalized voices, and employ more inclusive practices behind-the-camera.

On the set of my film “AK” in February 2016.

That’s what I find most attractive.

It’s what I hope to do with the films I make.

OK, now you know how I vote with my money and attention. Here are some of the projects I’ve recently supported in that fashion.

Projects I’ve Recently Supported

Some of the things I’ve most recently supported include Ghostbusters (2016), Ghost in the Shell (2017), and The Handmaiden’s Tale (2017). Each of these titles is so different. Whether I loved them or not, I’ve been fascinated by the work and conversations surrounding them.

Ghostbusters made me legitimately cry in the theater because I was so excited to see a non-sexualized female character in an action scene. But it drew a lot of ire from people because it was a remake with women. Leslie Jones took a lot of racist heat, too. (People can be so cruel.) I found the movie really enjoyable, though.

My favorite part was this kind of coverage: This “Ghostbusters” Premiere Photo Shows Why Representation Matters. Tears of joy, y’all! I love these photos so much!

Ghost in the Shell was a movie I went to see opening weekend to support more female action hero films. I confess that it wasn’t one of my favorites, but the movie helped me start a lot of important conversations about whitewashing. If you’re unfamiliar, you should research whitewashing when you have time. It’s unfortunate.

The Handmaiden’s Tale was released last week. The first three episodes were directed by one of my favorite cinematographers Reed Morano. She also had a hand in Beyoncé’s Lemonade film (specifically the “Sandcastles” video), which I totally love.

I’ve watched the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, followed the release of the series in the news, and am soaking up all of the reviews I can find. It’s pretty haunting and powerful. I’m hooked.

One more film I plan to see opening weekend is Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is set for release in June 2017, although it’s not being promoted a whole lot.

It’s the subject of a article recent article “You Aren’t Imagining It, ‘Wonder Woman’ Really Isn’t Being Well Promoted” on Uproxx.com:

What is going on? How can a movie that is seven months away be getting more promotional attention than the one that is practically in theaters already? Do Warner Bros. and DC think audiences don’t want to meet the cast of Wonder Woman? Are they so certain of butts in seats they think they don’t need to spend the money?

Or are they spiraling into a self-fulfilling prophecy that female superhero movies tend to flop (because they’re bad and not because they star women) and don’t want to throw marketing dollars into a perceived money pit?

Here’s a major studio production with a big budget directed by a woman. Yay! Read more about why that matters so much in this article “‘Wonder Woman’ director finds herself in rare summer role” from ABC.

When I showed the first trailer to a friend, his response was mediocre, “Eh, it’s just another superhero movie.”

But … that’s the point, isn’t it?

This is a superhero movie with a female at the center of the story. She’s a strong woman who doesn’t need to be saved / rescued, married, or a mother to be seen as valuable. That’s huge.

“I can’t let you do this,” says Chris Pine as Steve Trevor in the trailer.

“What I do is not up to you,” responds Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

Boom.

Yep, I’m hooked.

I’ve been waiting for this movie since the trailer was released last year. I’ve been following it in the media, too. Totally obsessed and counting down the days!

What about you?

Are there movies, TV shows, or other forms of entertainment you’ve supported because they align with your values? Do you make a conscious decision to vote with your dollars and attention? What have you enjoyed watching?

Use the comments and tell me what’s on your mind. I’d love to hear from you.

Keep Reading

Want to keep reading about this stuff?

Oooh, I hope you do! I find it fascinating.

Here are some interesting resources:

One Final Note

Let me be perfectly clear about something important.

Supporting strong female characters, marginalized voices, and inclusive filmmaking practices does not detract from other people.

Making things equal doesn’t mean creating more inequality; that’s a scarcity mindset. There’s more than enough to go around.

So I want to encourage you to listen carefully to the conversations happening around you – especially if you’re a straight, white male, my friend. You can be a real ally, if you choose. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to act in the midst of change; I get it.

But keep an open mind. Take time to consider your own biases, privilege, and how you show up in the world. Let people around you expound on an opinion without interrupting them or getting defensive – no matter whether your conversation is about something as simple as a movie or something bigger.

We can delve deeper on this in another post, if you’re interested. Speak up in the comments section below to continue the conversation. I’d love to know what’s on your mind.

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