Let's talk about 'Sex' (Hey guys, that means us)So as today dawns, I'm assuming a couple of things. One is that the "Sex and the City" leap to the big screen competed just fine opposite "Indiana Jones and the Absolutely Positively Last Crusade (We Really Mean It This Time)," or whatever it's called. The other is that women all over are feeling just a little bit hung over from their cosmo-and-cinema bonding outings or martini-and-movie gals excursions to soak up "Sex" during its opening weekend.
It's not just a movie, it's a generation- defining cultural imperative. Just ask my girlfriend, for whom the film release was a perfect excuse to become one with her like-minded sisters, specifically her adult daughter. I am woman, hear me applaud. It was the female equivalent of guys getting blotto on Schlitz during "Monday Night Football" and waking up with a face full of bean dip.
Sadly, my gender doesn't do spiritual connection all that elegantly.
But this raises an intriguing point, one that says much about the difference between boys and girls. Women seem to have no trouble connecting with one another to attend chick flicks. The shared experience thing appears to come naturally. And that makes it a relative snap for the studios to market the right product to them en masse.
Guys do sporting events together just fine. But when's the last time you heard a dude asking another, "Hey, what say we go see that new 'Rambo' flick Saturday night?" and the friend responding, "Oooh yeah! You bring the burgers, I'll bring the bandannas!"?
Not in this galaxy, buster.
Comedies like "Knocked Up" and horror films like "Cloverfield" are probably as close as Hollywood comes to male-exclusive target marketing. But those also have plenty of crossover appeal. "Sex and the City's" crossover would be young women and … middle-aged women. It draws a decent number of men, too, — as did the celebrated HBO series that spawned it — but they're mostly closeted and shamed into silence, like a guy who TiVos "The View." (Fact: I have a male friend who does. He also tears up during life insurance commercials.)
What, then, is a savvy film marketing professional to do about the fact that straight men seem to lack this moviehouse bonding gene? The answer might well be one we don't want to hear given what it says about the comparatively unrefined nature of masculine discernment and maturity: Women have "Sex and the City"; men have "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."
Yes, the stoner crowd is something of an anomaly when it comes to guys accompanying guys into theaters. It's a hardcore young-male viewing happening in a way that baffles the majority of women, rather like the Three Stooges and the various permutations of "Jackass." Those who inhale love watching others inhale onscreen. I mean, have we learned nothing from Cheech & Chong?
Having opened in late April, the second "Harold & Kumar" is still generating modest boxoffice business and will wind up grossing somewhere around $45 million. Not exactly blockbuster. But that's on a budget of about $12 million, so it's a nice return on investment, even before DVD.
The problem here is that the primary audience is those who would have trouble making it to the theater through the brain haze. One might imagine a group of guys piling into the car and growing increasingly confused and frustrated while waiting at a stoplight for the movie to begin. Disoriented and craving starch, they head to Blockbuster and rent "Dude, Where's My Car?" instead.
Perhaps this simply means that once the testosterone crowd leaves adolescence behind, they also, somewhat tragically, grow out of their bonding comfort zone, unwittingly erecting emotional barriers that keep fraternal intimacy at bay. This is not exactly a news flash. But it gets magnified when every woman you know is capable of converting a feature film into something of a religious pilgrimage.
Rather than drinking fruity cocktails and dreaming romantic dreams, my weekend was spent poking quasi-sexist fun at what I'm fairly certain is a budding "Sex" phenomenon. Yet the truth is I'm secretly envious of all of that evolved intragender connecting.
However, real men aren't supposed to admit that stuff — or to violate the "No hanging out together if it doesn't involve sports or poker" rule. So let's just keep that between us.
Ray Richmond can be reached at ray.richmond@THR.com.