2019 was a tough year for non-Disney sequels/reboots. From disappointments (The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Men in Black: International, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) to downright disasters (Hellboy, Shaft, Dark Phoenix, Terminator: Dark Fate, Doctor Sleep), IP isn’t as reliable as it once was. Even movies like The Secret Life of Pets 2 and It: Chapter Two massively underperformed compared to their predecessors.
The latest casualty (and it seems like it’s happening every weekend) is Charlie’s Angels. The opening 3-day tally for the reboot was an obscene $8.3 million. It barely edged out Playing with Fire, which is in its second week of release and also a Nickelodeon movie starring John Cena.
The budget for Charlie’s Angels was a modest $48 million. But when you factor in marketing, the cost for the Sony movie is probably closer to $100 million. It’s the definition of a flop and director Elizabeth Banks seemed to have little confidence in the film’s prospects even before its release.
In an interview with the Herald Sun, Banks said that if the movie failed at the box office, it would continue a long track record of female-driven action movies failing to connect with a predominantly male audience.
“Look, people have to buy tickets to this movie, too,” Banks said. “This movie has to make money. If this movie doesn’t make money it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies.”
She went on to say that the success of female-led superhero movies don’t count because they’re largely male driven.
“They’ll go and see a comic book movie with Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel because that’s a male genre,” Banks said. “So even though those are movies about women, they put them in the context of feeding the larger comic book world, so it’s all about, yes, you’re watching a Wonder Woman movie but we’re setting up three other characters or we’re setting up Justice League.”
The bigger issue is a lack of female action movies period. There have been successful exceptions (Salt, Lucy, Atomic Blonde). But for the most part, studios are unwilling to make more of them because it’s mainly dudes going to the theater.
Still, Banks knew, like all of us who follow the industry, that this movie was going to have a hard time finding an audience based on everything we’ve seen this year. Its failure isn’t due to an all-female cast. It failed because no one wanted to see another Charlie’s Angels. Just like they didn’t want another Hellboy or another Shaft or another Terminator.