Moms and Gays Boost 'Magic Mike's' Box Office Chances in a Big Way

Magic Mike Float Fifty Shades of Grey - H 2012
Trent/; Warner Bros.

Magic Mike Float Fifty Shades of Grey - H 2012

Warner Bros. paid for a "Magic Mike" float in the West Hollywood gay pride parade, while female fans of "Fifty Shades of Grey" are going gaga for the male striptease dramedy.

From gay pride promotions in six cities to piggybacking on the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Warner Bros.' marketing campaign for Magic Mike has relied on unconventional means to whip up interest in the male striptease dramedy.

So far, it seems to be working. Many box office observers say they won't be surprised if the film, directed by Steven Soderbergh, overperforms when opening at the domestic box office on June 28, much as Warners' big screen adaptation of Sex and the City far exceeded expectations on the strength of females.

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And, also like Sex and the City, Magic Mike has sparked heated interest in the gay community, thanks to the buff and scantily clad cast, including Channing Tatum (the movie is loosely based on his days stripping), Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and Joe Manganiello.

Warners has aggressively gone after this demo, paying for a Magic Mike float in the West Hollywood gay pride parade earlier in June and doing gay pride promotions at similar events in five other markets, including San Francisco and New York.

Enlisting the help of the Karpel Group, which specializes in marketing to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community, Warners helped secure features in the leading gay press. Manganiello appeared on the cover of Out Magazine, while The Advocate published a piece on McConaughey.

Gay moviegoers can certainly move the box office needle, but it is females who will fuel most of Magic Mike's earnings. 

Initially, Warners found there was trepidation among grown women about openly embracing a movie about male strippers. Tatum in particular has became a leading star in terms of romantic dramas, but now, his female fans are being asked to accept him in an entirely different role.

Everything changed this spring when Fifty Shades of Grey burst onto the scene. The novel, which is being adapted into a feature by Focus and Universal, suddenly made it okay for women, and moms, to talk more openly about their sexuality.

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"The timing couldn't have been better," says Warner Bros. president of worldwide marketing Sue Kroll. "When you have the Today show covering Fifty Shades of Grey, that's as mainstream as it gets. You can never plan for a cultural phenomenon like this."

The heart of Warners' female-targeted campaign has centered on encouraging females of all ages to do something for themselves and go and see Magic Mike with their friends. The push seems to be working. Interest is keen among females both under and over the age of 25, according to pre-release tracking.

And Magic Mike has generated a huge conversation on social media (Warners has made an enormouse push online in marketing the film). Research firm Fizziology says three percent of the conversation about the movie also mentions Fifty Shades of Grey, and that many of those commenting are moms.

"Anytime you see two or three percent,  you are seeing a trend, says Fizziology COO Jen Handley, who founded the company with Ben Carlson. "And I'm surprised by just how bawdy the conversation, considering this is an audience that tends to be more reserved. They are just putting it all out there."

Carlson adds: "In our three years, I don't think we've seen a conversation about a movie that has been this explicit and sexual in nature."

Online ticket service Fandango reported on Tuesday that Magic Mike is already generating 36 precent of all pre-sale business, a sure sign that females are making set plans to see the film (there also was big pre-sale business for Sex and the City).