'Ocean's 8': How the Female-Fronted Film Stole the Box-Office Crown

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
'Ocean's 8'

The movie's opening is a reminder that fanboys aren't the only moviegoers that matter during summer.

A month ago, few in Hollywood would have predicted that the female-fronted Ocean's 8 would have no trouble stealing this weekend's box-office crown from Solo: A Star Wars Story, or that Book Club, another femme-centric summer film, would amass nearly $57 million to date against a $10 million budget.

The heist turned out to be an easy job for Ocean's 8, which opened to a better-than-expected $41.5 million over the weekend as Solo continued to lose altitude, grossing $15.2 million in its third frame. That compares to the nearly $50 million earned by fellow standalone film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in its third weekend at the end of 2016.

Ocean's 8, a mid-size movie that cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow $70 million to produce before marketing, is a reminder that fanboys aren't the only demo that studios should obssess over when plotting tentpole-laden, summer slates. It's also an early victory for the slew of gender-swapping remakes and reboots currently in the works across Hollywood, helping to exorcise the ghost of Sony's female-led Ghostbusters remake, which ultimately lost money two summers ago after costing a hefty $144 million to produce.

Not only did Ocean's 8 land one of the top openings of the year to date — it all but ties for No. 6 with Steven Spielberg's fanboy-centric Ready Player One, which cost more than twice as much to produce, or $144 milion — but it got off to a bigger launch than any of the three Ocean's films directed by Steven Soderbergh that were released between 2001 and 2007, not adjusted for inflation.

"The target audience, females, are just so underserved," says Jeff Goldstein.

Ocean's 8 stars Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter as a gang of savvy thieves who plot a diamond heist at the Met Gala, with Anne Hathaway as an unwitting part of the plan.

Generally speaking, males make up 60 percent or more of those buying tickets to see a tentpole such as Ready Player One, which was released in April, Solo or this summer's Avengers: Infinity War on opening weekend.

By contrast, in the case of Ocean's 8, nearly 70 percent of tickets buyers were female.

Ocean's 8 also is a reminder of the buying power of aging boomers. The movie skewed notably older, with almost 70 percent of the audience 25 and up, including 14 percent who were 45 and older and 12 percent 55 and older. By way of comparison, only eight percent of Infinity War's opening-weekend audience was 45 and older, including just three percent over the age of 55.

That's not to say that the young crowd entirely stayed away: 20 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25. Box-office observers credit the age range and diversity of the cast for the resulting age range and diversity of the audience. According to Warners, caucasians made up 56 percent of ticket buyers, followed by Hispanics (17 percent), Asians/other (14 percent) and African-Americans (13 percent).

In the case of Paramount's Book Club, released in the latter half of May, the audience was even older and more female. The movie told an original story about a group of older woman who read Fifty Shades of Grey as they work out their own relationships. Starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenbrugen, the film has enjoyed a stellar hold after debuting to $13.6 million. On its opening weekend, nearly 80 percent of the audience was female, including 50 percent over the age of 50.

"Audiences do not live by blockbusters alone in the summer, and this has been particularly evident this year," says analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore. "This seems to be a summer programmed by grownups for grownups, and that is paying big dividends to Hollywood. And while the blockbuster remains the engine that drives the summer season, it is the smaller-scale content that can provide a strong foundation on which to build a solid overall box office."

Adds Eric Handler of MKM Partners, "Not everything has to be a big, $200 million epic."