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Breaking Glass

'Wonder Woman' could power more female-driven films, award-winning director says

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Great Hera! A new era of female-driven (and -directed) films may be upon us after “Wonder Woman” generated an impressive $100.5 million in opening weekend domestic sales, earning the title of the largest-ever debut for a female-directed feature.

Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman,” the first solo female superhero film in Warner Bros.’ DC Entertainment repertoire, also received a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes — much to the dismay of internet trolls who created a backlash over the women-only screenings and to the relief of those who questioned whether the film had received more limited advertising in comparison with male-oriented superhero films.

NJBIZ spoke with Candy Straight, executive producer of the award-winning, gender- and Wall Street- focused film “Equity,” to get her thoughts on the film’s critical and financial success.

“$100.5 million for ‘Wonder Woman’ is huge,” Straight said. “It’s been a big hit, which should open doors for women directors and female action heroes.”

Straight added that, in addition to “Wonder Woman’s” domestic success this past weekend, the film also earned $122.5 million in 55 international markets.

“Over the past 20 years, most film superheroes have been male,” Straight said. “This was the opportunity to see if a famous female superhero could generate the film sales that some of the male superheroes have generated.”

“Wonder Woman” did not disappoint.

“In the past, Hollywood thought that teenage boys were the generator of ticket sales, and therefore liked male superheroes,” Straight said. “But what Hollywood is learning is that, if you have a well-written script and good actors, female-driven films will do just as well, if not better.”

The PG-13 film follows the Amazonian princess and her chance encounter with a pilot (Chris Pine) after he crash-lands on her home island. After learning of World War I on planet Earth, Wonder Woman — aka Diana Prince — decides to use her superpowers to restore world peace.

Gal Gadot, a 32-year old Israeli actress and model, debuted as Wonder Woman in last year’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The 2004 Miss Israel previously served two years in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat instructor before a casting director hired her to play the role of Gisele in “Fast & Furious,” in which she performed her own stunts.

An audience comprised of 52 percent female and 48 percent male moviegoers turned out last weekend to see Gadot embody the iconic superhero.

“The all-female audiences did not hurt,” Straight added, referring to the women-only screenings promoted — and adamantly defended — by Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. “Everybody is so divisive today in this world.

“There were a few males who decided they’d make a big deal about it because they felt excluded, but, at the end of the day, it was irrelevant to who went to see the movie.”

Additionally, while three men were responsible for the script, Jenkins — who helped lead Charlize Theron to her Academy Award win for her performance in “Monster” — seemingly stole the show with her historic success. 

Straight noted multiple studies and statistics that continue to confirm that women, much like in other industries, face multiple obstacles when it comes to director roles in the film and television industry

A recent study by the Sundance Institute Commission and Women in Film, for example, found that across 1,300 top-grossing movies from 2002 to 2014, only 4.1 percent of all directors were women.

Straight, who is currently working as an executive producer on her next film (a highly relevant political thriller), said she hopes the success of “Wonder Woman” will spark a new trend for female-driven films.

“In Hollywood, where there are very few women directors for big films, this, I would argue, is very noteworthy,” Straight said. 

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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