Once again, women have made a cinematic mark.
“Harriet,” the new biographical film about the life of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, grossed $12 million this past weekend — to the surprise of some who cling to the idea that women-led films perform poorly at the box office.
Contrary to that notion, “audiences have been unanimous for their love of this film,” Focus distribution president Lisa Bunnell told The Hollywood Reporter. “With the story of one woman’s strength that literally changed the world we all live in today, it is the feel-great movie people are looking for.”
In a recent interview, director Kasi Lemmons delved further into discussing the movie’s inspirational storyline, while also noting the difficulties in accurately portraying such an iconic figure. “I don’t want to rob her of either her womanhood or her superheroism, because we need our black women superheroes … she was that badass and, you know, I think that’s extremely important,” she says.
Beyond its motivational message and all-star cast — Broadway veteran Cynthia Erivo plays the titular Tubman, with celebrated performers Janelle Monáe and Leslie Odom Jr. also featured — there’s another factor that’s likely contributing to the success of “Harriet:” the involvement of women.
Indeed, women-led films rake in more money than movies starring men. And that’s a study-proven statistic — a research effort led by Creative Artists Agency and tech company Shift7 found that films featuring female leads frequently topped box offices, of the films released between January 2014 and December 2017.
“Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films were generally less successful,” said CAA agent Christy Haubegger told the Washington Post of the 2018 study. “We found data that does not support that assumption.”
Perhaps, then, it would be in Hollywood’s best interest to listen when actress Geena Davis suggests turning male roles into female ones.