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Ladies choose 'Sex and the City'

Ladies choose ”Sex and the City” — Sarah Jessica Parker explains why her movie’s success is not a cultural phenomenon

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In the end, the only enemy that the mighty Indiana Jones couldn’t vanquish was a quartet of ladies in high heels. Opening at No. 1 with $56.8 million, the Sex and the City movie more than doubled box office pundits’ expectations and broke a slew of records: the strongest first weekend ever for a romantic comedy, the biggest bow for an R-rated comedy, and the fifth-highest-grossing debut for an R-rated movie. According to Evite, more people planned SATC soirees than Oscar-viewing parties this year. The New Line-produced film also nabbed the top spot in much of Europe. It was an unqualified triumph for Carrie Bradshaw and the girls — one the industry observed in a stunned, slack-jawed state. As the weekend rolled to a close, news outlets filled their reports with words like unexpected, surprising, and shocking. ”What do you know?” they all seemed to be saying. ”Women go to the movies!”

Well, duh! Strange as it may seem, if you make quality entertainment that women might connect with, yes, we will show up. Or, as SATC‘s star and producer Sarah Jessica Parker told EW the Monday the final box office tally came in, ”If you build it, they will come. Women are hungry for cinema. They are hungry.” It’s a point we assumed studio heads had registered two years ago, when The Devil Wears Prada opened to $28 million and went on to gross an unexpected — or was it surprising? Maybe shocking? — $125 million. ”What strikes me,” Parker added, ”is that this isn’t a cultural phenomenon — calling it that diminishes it. You can’t say our movie is breaking numbers internationally and call that a ‘cultural thing.’ It’s women. And women are not a phenomenon. We want to read good books, see good television, and go to the cinema. We want to be engaged. The same has [always] been true.” Amen to that, sister.

The challenge now is for the film’s distributor, Warner Bros., to ensure long, Sex-y legs throughout the summer. Ticket sales did dip significantly from Friday to Sunday in its opening weekend, but the movie’s CinemaScore grade (an A) paves the way for strong word of mouth — even among men, whose attendance actually increased after day one. Moreover, DVD sales of the series jumped an average of 52 percent on Amazon.com, which could indicate an appetite for repeat viewings of the movie. Ratings for reruns on TBS ticked up from April to May, and the soundtrack, featuring songs from Fergie and Jennifer Hudson, leapt to No. 1 on iTunes.

If all these numbers hold up, we’ll need to brace ourselves for the inevitable onslaught of copycat projects. (We can see the tagline already: ”Lipstick Jungle on the silver screen — even Junglier out there!”) Studio execs may also look more fondly on adapting other hit TV shows. Yet part of the reason SATC fared so well is that its aspirational fantasy brand has aged gracefully in syndication; a more dated series like Friends might have a tougher time transitioning. And while SATC alone isn’t likely to convince Hollywood to overcome its aversion to female-fronted films once and for all, Warner Bros., at least, is already talking franchise — even if Parker and director Michael Patrick King have yet to broach the subject, for fear of getting ahead of themselves. ”We’ve not dared bring it up,” says Parker. ”I’m delighted [Warner Bros.] feels confident about it. It’s something we’ll have to figure out — sooner rather than later.” We’ll clink our cosmo glasses to that. — with additional reporting by Lindsay Soll

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