There's a new genre in Tinseltown, and it's all about female friendship

Blockbusters are Hollywood's favourite films, right? Wrong. There's a new genre in town that has turned conventional wisdom about cinema-goers on its head. While male teenagers still make up the biggest audience in US cinemas (hence the endless array of superhero/cop/ disaster themes), women are demanding films that they want to see – and they are starting to get them.

In the coming months, a slew of titles is scheduled to hit the UK market that will test to the limits the traditional film industry theory that so-called "chick-flicks" are incapable of making serious money.

First in line is Baby Mama, a comedy starring Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, in which a 37-year-old career woman decides to have a child by way of a surrogate mother. Lauded for its vulgar brand of dark humour and skilful portrayal of female friendship, it was a surprise box-office hit in the US, topping the charts earlier this year.

Next up is The Women, a remake of the 1939 Joan Crawford classic about the occasionally scandalous affairs of wealthy Manhattan housewives with an all-female cast.

The subject of both films (female friendship), together with their projected audiences (groups of female friends), has prompted talk among industry experts of the start of a new golden era for a genre known as the "girl-friend-flick" or GFF.

Such films are sharper, funnier and more honest than the traditional, pejoratively titled "chick-flick" or romantic comedy. They present a warts-and-all view of female relationships, have almost exclusively female casts, and tend to focus on the subject of women's friendships with each other, rather than their efforts to snare a husband.

The film version of Sex and the City has been a trend curtain-raiser, with much more emphasis on the four heroines' friendships than on Carrie's pursuit of "Mr Big". It has confounded box-office expectations, taking almost £100m worldwide, to "shatter the decades-old thinking that females – particularly older ones – can't fuel the sort of big opening enjoyed by a male-driven event picture", according to the showbusiness magazine Variety.

Cinemas across the world are crediting the film's success to large groups of women buying tickets as part of a wider "girls' night out". The phenomenon has Hollywood bosses looking beyond Baby Mama and The Women for the next female "buddy" hit.

Not surprisingly, the GFF appeals to the upwardly mobile modern woman. The Women – directed by Diane English, and starring Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes – will this month be celebrated by the feminist lobbying organisation Women in Film, when it receives an "excellence in film" prize at WIF's annual Crystal+Lucy awards in Beverly Hills.

The prestigious gong, awarded before critics have actually seen the film, recognises a 12-year struggle by English to get the film made, in the face of almost intransigent reluctance by financiers to back a production without a single man in its cast. Eventually, it was financed by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

According to Women in Film's Los Angeles president, Jane Fleming, the difficulties experienced by English have, until now, been standard fare for female film-makers, particularly those wanting to make titles about their own gender. Of the top 250 films last year, only 7 per cent were directed by women. "Only a very small proportion of films are made for women," Ms Fleming said. "The industry still thinks its core audience is 15- to 35-year-old men. But 50 per cent of potential audiences are women, and they also want to see films about themselves and their experiences, so it's nice when such films do so well."

The GFF enjoyed occasional hits in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to titles such as Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment and Thelma and Louise. Some analysts think its recent return to prominence follows a downturn in the fortunes of traditional romantic comedies amid a dearth of suitable stars for key roles.

"I'm a producer in my day job, and you are always trying to find the next trend," Ms Fleming adds. "Romantic comedies are very cast-driven and you need chemistry and the right mix. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had a really good run. So did Julia Roberts, and also Hugh Grant." All have now stopped making such films.

Other analysts credit the rise of the GFF, and the success of Sex and the City, to the fact that they represent a "new rendering of the chick-flick," and demonstrate that fashionable, modern women don't need men to feel fulfilled.

"Women are attending films differently to men," says Ray Richmond, TV critic and entertainment columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. "They are going in groups, as a sort of sisterhood, and want to see something that appeals to 'us'. It's a spiritual pilgrimage, and there's a feeling with these sorts of films now that it's more than just a movie: it's a cultural imperative to attend."

'Baby Mama' is released on 25 July; 'The Women' will be in cinemas in the winter

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'