“Don’t give studios an excuse not to green-light movies made by and about women,” says Booksmart director Olivia Wilde.
There are 22 male directors for every female director.
A recent report found that in the last 11 years, only 4% of 1,100 films surveyed were directed by a woman. It also reported that female directors have shorter careers than their male counterparts.
And yet, films made by women continue to prove to be commercial and critical successes.
Greta Gerwig’s first solo directorial debut Ladybird received the best ever rating on Rotten Tomatoes last year. Before that, 2017’s Wonder Woman became the first female-led film to cross the $800m mark under the direction of Patty Jenkins.
This is why there has been such a buzz around Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart. The film, starring Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Beautiful Boy), takes a brave and hilarious look at teenage sexuality through an LGBT+ perspective. Empire gave the film five stars, Vulture described it as a “goddamn delight” and Metro reviewed it as one of the “funniest films of 2019”.
It’s clearly a film worth parting with the price of a cinema ticket for.
But despite such brilliant reviews, the film earned $8.6 million over the weekend in the US. This is low in comparison to Guy Richie’s Aladdin remake, which grossed an estimated $86.1 million. And John Wick 3, which had already been out for a week, took around $24.4 million.
An indie film was arguably never going to surpass a Disney live action film with cinema ticket sales over a Bank Holiday weekend. But Booksmart’s unreached commercial potential has highlighted the urgent need to continue supporting female directors by simply heading to the cinema.
Watch the trailer for Booksmart
Despite the growth of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, NOWTV and Amazon Prime, cinema attendance in the UK during summer 2018 was the highest it’s been since 1970. People are clearly still heading out to catch a film, but perhaps they are opting for the “bigger” action movies (Aladdin, John Wick) in order to get the optimal cinematic experience, and saving the indie flicks to watch at home.
It also doesn’t help that cinema prices are at an all-time high.
But, as Wilde perfectly articulated on Twitter on Saturday, these are reasons why it’s more important than ever to go and watch female-directed films at the cinema.
“Anyone out there saving @Booksmart for another day, consider making that day TODAY,” she wrote. “We are getting creamed by the big dogs out there and need your support. Don’t give studios an excuse not to green-light movies made by and about women.”
The director later added: “A wide release for a small film is def a major gamble. I’m lucky my first movie is in any theater at all! Also proud a movie like this can be seen by the entire country at once. We made @Booksmart for everyone.”
Fans shared their experiences of watching Booksmart at the cinema, with one writing: “Just saw #booksmart and our audience applauded at the end. That’s how good it is. Everyone must go see it. I needed that laughter. And we need more amazing stories being told about and by women. Amazing directorial debut by @oliviawilde.”
Another said: “I felt like I became friends with everyone in our audience. We laughed. We cried. We clapped. So fun to watch in the theater.”
And a third added: “Our theater audience was totally into it too. And we went to a matinee that skewed old, like 60s/70s old. We were ALL into it. Some of the laughter drowned out lines, and there were a few “OOOOOHS” and sniffles too. Great fun.”
With this audience reaction in mind, perhaps Booksmart is exactly the kind of film that should be watched in the cinema after all.