“Catching Fire” Enters Hallowed Box Office Ground


The second installment in the Hunger Games franchise  has recently overtaken reigning Iron Man 3 as the highest grossing film at the domestic box office in 2013. It’s $410 billion odd earnings are still growing as the movie remains in wide release. However, what makes this accomplishment even more impressive is that Catching Fire became the first movie with a clear female protagonist to top the domestic box office since 1973’s The Exorcist.

Of course, this is excluding films with a female co-lead which are, admittedly, more frequent. However, even then, one must return to 1997’s Titanic with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as characters of truly equal importance. One could even claim that The Exorcist doesn’t feature a solo female lead with Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair being roughly equal to Max von Sydow and Jason Miller. Only eight years prior was there a film with an inarguable woman lead: The Sound of Music in 1965 with Julie Andrews. While some claim Funny Girl in 1968, the #1 film that year was actually 2001: A Space Odyssey.

For some reason, movies about women are few and far between. It’s not even that they don’t do as well in theaters, but simply that not as many of them are made when compared with the massive influx of movies about men. While movies do often include at least one female character, she is hardly ever at its head and are often a mere plot device rather than her own fleshed-out person.

There seems to be an ingrained idea in Hollywood that movies with strong female characters won’t make money. Yet, in contrast, a study completed this year shows that movies in the top 50 highest grossing of 2013 that passed the Bechdel Test made almost double the amount of money that non-passing movies did.

The Bechdel Test is a very simple criteria introduced by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to completely pass, it must have three qualities: 1) include at least two female characters who 2) have a conversation about 3) something other than a man. Of course, a movie not passing isn’t automatically sexist. Sometimes the situation portrayed simply wouldn’t be realistic with a woman due to certain settings or situations. Yet, the statistics certainly do not support the notion that lead women can’t sell films.

Catching Fire was not the only girl power film to top charts this year. Frozen, with a focus on two sympathetic sisters, currently holds the #4 spot and Sandra Bullock’s triumph of Gravity is steady at the #7 spot. Next year looks to feature even more powerful girls with Divergent, Veronica Mars, Maleficent, and, of course, Mockingjay- Part 1.

Beyond being #1 this year domestically, Catching Fire has made a lot more history in terms of income. It has the highest grossing Thanksgiving weekend ever, is the first 2D movie to top earnings charts since 2008, and the series is the first where two consecutive installments to both made over $400 billion in the domestic box office with the second as the fifth fastest movie ever to hit the mark. It is currently the thirteenth highest grossing North American release ever.

Emma Paquette
One of those quiet advocates that the world add just a few more hours to the day. Even if I don't live in the District, I'm close enough to pretend that I do.
Emma Paquette
Emma Paquette

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