The success of Pitch Perfect 2 isn’t just good news for musical comedy fans; it’s also a historic win for women behind the camera. The Elizabeth Banks-directed sequel debuted at over $70 million this weekend, making it the second highest opening ever for a female film director. The top of that list is occupied by director Sam Taylor-Johnson, whose Fifty Shades of Grey opened at $85.2 million this February. Both of these record-breaking movies also have female screenwriters: Pitch Perfect 2 was penned by Kay Cannon, and Fifty Shades of Grey by Kelly Marcel. The bottom line: Two of the biggest movies of 2015 were written and directed by women.
This is a big deal, as so few tentpole movies are directed or written by women in the first place. Less than 5 percent of feature films released by a major studio between 2009 and 2013 were directed by women, according to this oft-cited Women and Hollywood chart. Last year brought more of the same: Only 7 percent of last year’s top 250 films had female directors, and just 11 percent had female screenwriters. Even though women make up a majority of movie-going audiences, female writers and directors remain significantly less likely than men to be hired by major movie studios. Hollywood routinely fails to take women seriously as either filmmakers or filmgoers, to the extent that the ACLU is now seeking a government inquiry into the industry’s gender bias.
And yet, 2015 is turning the tables on Hollywood’s deeply entrenched expectations. So far this year, women have exerted enormous power at the box office, driving movies like Fifty Shades, Cinderella, Insurgent, and Home to No. 1. This weekend, Pitch Perfect 2 opened against Mad Max: Fury Road, and the audience predictably skewed female for the former (75 percent) and male for the latter (70 percent). But few anticipated that PP2 would so thoroughly leave Mad Max in the dust, taking in $70.3 million to its $44.4 million.
Moviegoers are sending a very clear message that they want to see stories about women on the big screen. The film industry still needs convincing that women can tell those stories themselves – but if anyone’s paying attention, the success of Fifty Shades and PP2 should be a wake-up call.
In the meantime, Hollywood is still passing on female directors for their biggest films. With a few encouraging exceptions — Ava Duvernay being courted for a Marvel movie, Patti Jenkins helming Wonder Woman, Sofia Coppola doing Universal’s Little Mermaid — most of the big franchises have thus far excluded women directors entirely. Maybe it’s no surprise that the six-director shortlist for the Spider-Man reboot is all men. But the bias extends even to women-centric movie brands like the live-action Disney fairytale films, the Insurgent movies, and the Hunger Games saga, none of which have been directed by women. The stories shared by anonymous filmmakers on the Tumblr “S— Women Say to Female Directors” show just how much Hollywood’s sexism is a part of their everyday lives — and how much s–t women filmmakers have to put up with on a daily basis.
Watch our interview with the cast of ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ below: