CinemaCon: Theater President Proclaims 2015 "Year of Women" at Box Office

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John Fithian

National Association of Theatre Owners president/CEO John Fithian also predicted a record year overall at the worldwide box office.

Female moviegoers are driving a much-needed boom at the box office, as actresses — still woefully underrepresented in terms of playing leading roles — are suddenly getting a "little more of the limelight," said National Association of Theatre Owners president/CEO John Fithian Tuesday in his state-of-the-industry speech at CinemaCon.

"2015 will rock at the box office because it will be the year of women," Fithian told theater owners gathered in Las Vegas for their annual convention.

"Research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has shown that only 12 percent of leading roles in 2014 went to women — even though women bought half of all movie tickets. In 2015, women get a little more of the limelight," continued Fithian. "Three successful movies so far this year had women in leading roles and sold 60 percent or more tickets to women. And we have so much more to come, with big female roles in horror, comedy, science fiction, animation, family, Western, thriller and action. Personally, I am so pleased that my daughter can see more women in leading roles than ever before."

Those three titles Fithian referenced are Cinderella, Fifty Shades of Grey and Insurgent.

Females were one of the myriad reasons Fithian gave in predicting that 2015 will be the biggest year in history at the worldwide box office, which already is hitting record levels thanks to a string of hits, led by Furious 7, and an upcoming slate anchored by titans Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

"In 15 years of standing on a Vegas stage, I have never before made this prediction — 2015 will be a record-breaking year in both domestic and global box-office receipts," said Fithian.

For years, theater owners have been calling on Hollywood studios to release some of their big movies outside of the summer corridor and holidays. Now, they are finally doing so.

"Furious 7 is the first billion-dollar global blockbuster ever released in the month of April, thanks to Universal’s continuing use of all 12 months in the calendar. And the remainder of the year is packed with likely commercial-success stories. Indeed, we believe that 2015 will see the opening of at least four — and perhaps as many as six — billion-dollar movies, spread throughout the year. That's never happened before," said Fithian.

Also fueling a record year in 2015 is a healthy number of titles meant for all ages. Fithian said there is at least one movie every month that is rated PG or G.

Fithian said premium sight and sound and luxury offerings also are attracting moviegoers, as well as expanded access for patrons with disabilities. Most major titles now include captions for the deaf.

The theater chief largely avoided the contentious issue of windows. Said Fithian: "Though one-off and radical simultaneous-release experiments garner some media attention, the reality is that major distributors believe that theatrical exclusivity drives the entire business."