Cameron Diaz urges women to watch comedies

with Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz wanted to make The Other Woman because it was a story about female friendship. “But it wasn’t,” she exclaims, when I talk to her at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. “I am not interested in telling stories about revenge. You have known me long enough and seen all of my films to know that I don’t do movies where women attack other women.” But she quickly realised that it was there to serve the comedy, and it paid off. The film topped the US box office this weekend with $24.7 million, in spite of the lukewarm reception from critics.

Directed by Nick Cassavetes, The Other Woman follows three jilted women (Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton), who fight over a philandering husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) before they unite to exact revenge against him.

“I love telling these stories,” the 40-year-old actress beams. “Young women are starting to realise that there are movies that will be made for them to see themselves in it, if they ask for them. And I think that vote of confidence is by seeing films like this.”

Indeed, 60% of the audience were women. This was also the case with previous successful female comedies: Bridesmaids (2012) and The Heat (2013). Evidently, the success of these comedies is impelling Hollywood to release more of them.

Once a staple of summer and the most bankable genre in movies, comedies had to take backseat in recent years, because, unlike special effects-driven action movies, comedy doesn’t translate well in the international market, which has become more important than the US market with over 60% of the global box office intake.

Sensing the insatiable appetite of the masses for 3D bigger-than-life spectacles, Hollywood has been deluging the market with franchises, sequels and reboots, at a hefty cost – most these movies cost well over $100 million to make- in the last decade. The strategy has paid off;  billion of dollars has streamed in from around the world, boosting Hollywood’s confidence to make even more and bigger films, so much that in the summer of 2013,  the market became so crowded that some of those tentpoles either collapsed under the weight of their leviathan size or just cannibalise each other at the box office. Consequently, nearly 60% of those once considered a guaranteed box office success, bombed. The casualties included originals, sequels and reboots such as R.I.P.D, Kick-Ass 2 and The Lone Ranger.

Amazingly, these giant blockbusters were sometimes beaten at the box office by comedies, often made for less than $50 million. In fact, all of 2013 summer’s studio comedies but one were profitable, including The Heat,  Grown Ups 2,  We’re the Millers and Hangover III. Each one of these comedies grossed over $100 in the box office, yet ironically their total budget is less than the $250 million cost of The Lone Ranger, one of the biggest flops of the summer.

The studios watched and scratched their heads. Evidently, there is dough to be made from comedies without the inherited risk of big budget actioners. In fact, Sony Pictures, which suffered 3 major flops (After Earth, Elysium and White House Down) was saved by the box office triumph of This Is the End ($126 million) and Grown Ups 2 ($246.9 million).

The studios were quick to react, unleashing a long list of comedies this summer, including Bad Neighbours, Blended, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Chef, 22 Jump Street, Sex Tape and Tammy.

“The Studios will make those movies if there’s an audience for them,” Diaz asserts. “I think the studio system was very much on the awkward young boy, who wanted to escape in a dark room and see superheroes and Hobbit lands, because they he was not ready to go into the world and himself in it. Young girls are more socialised, they go out in groups, and they don’t go into dark theatres by themselves and escape into superhero land. It’s better than making movies for boys, because boys go by themselves, or one friend, and girls go with like ten,” she laughs.

The Hollywood superstar is probably right in her sociological assessment, but comedies are not immune from failure either and can only be profitable when they are made cheap and done well, because they don’t have the cushion of the international market, that often offsets the losses of superhero movies. Furthermore, the success of one superhero movie can easily dwarf the income of all the comedies combined in one year. So there will be laughter, but also a lot of action this summer