Women Are the Majority of the Movie Audience, But What Do They Really Want to See?

By  · Published on March 27th, 2014

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Today in studies, science, and just a whole mess of numbers, the MPAA has released their annual Theatrical Market Statistics report, and the numbers show something that’s both quite heartening and deeply upsetting. Women, who make up 51% of the population (a very slim majority), are also the majority when it comes to actual movie-going (52%). Good news, right? Sure, but that consistent interest – and actual purchase power, as women are reportedly responsible for actually buying 50% of all movie tickets – doesn’t seem to have shifted what that majority audience is seeing, as Women and Hollywood reminds us that only 15% of films star women.

But just because women are the majority in the audience but not on the actual screen, does that automatically mean they’re not getting to see the things they want to see? In short, does the majority of the movie audience want to see more women portrayed in their movies, or are they happy with how things are?

The report shares that “females have comprised a larger share of moviegoers (people who went to a movie at the cinema at least once in the year) consistently since 2009. In 2013 there was a slight decrease (less than 1 percentage point) in the share of females that attended the cinema (52%) relative to 2012.” But what are those women seeing?

The study features a glimpse of the gender share at the five top-grossing films – Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, and Monsters University – and although women turned out to see male-driven films like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, their interest in a female heroine still appears to be much stronger. While Iron Man 3 pulled in an audience made up of 42% women and Man of Steel had an audience that was 40% female, the top-grossing lady-led film, Catching Fire, attracted more women than men and was the top five film with the most women in attendance. The second film in the Hunger Games series saw an audience that was made up of 54% female, the highest percentage of all five films.

The sixth most popular film, and one that didn’t get the gender share breakdown? Frozen, another female star-centric feature that made big bucks this year. It was trailed by other films with big female stars and story arcs, like Gravity (number 7), Oz the Great and Powerful (number 9), and Identity Thief (number 19).

This is, of course, a very small sample of films, and it’s impossible to draw big, sweeping conclusions from such numbers, but it is compelling that a female-led film pulled in the greatest share of women of the five. There are doubtless other factors at work here, but the news that women remain the majority of movie-goers is a big chunk of information, and one that should play a larger part in the types of films we all get to see. What do they want to see? What do we all want to see?

If you’d like to read the entire 31-page report – which includes tons of information about all sorts of theatrical stats, most of it relatively easy to digest – head right here.