Three summers ago, a low-budget movie, overseen by an Oscar-winning director known for being “artsy” and nontraditional in his approach, and featuring unproven star-on-the-rise Channing Tatum and then-punchline Matthew McConaughey, debuted to surprising success. A nominal rags-to-riches story that explored the “seedy” side of the world of male stripping (based in part on Tatum’s own pre-fame experiences as an exotic dancer), Magic Mike roared out of the gate with a $39.1 million opening weekend, on its way to a domestic gross of $113.7 million.
That’s a terrific return on investment for a film that only cost 7 million bucks to make.
So what caused this film to be such a success?
According to Box Office Mojo’s analytic write-up of the film’s opening weekend, it was women:
“The aspirational plot, which can be a bit of a downer, was largely ignored in favor of glimpses at stripping scenes involving an assortment of outrageous outfits. Instead of portraying the dark, seedy side of the movie’s world, the ads focused on the fun and excitement (not to mention plenty of abs). Late in the game, as the movie was building steam, Warner Bros. ramped up the ‘event movie’ signals to try and get large groups of women to ditch their boyfriends and head to the movies. As expected, the men didn’t really come along: the audience was 73 percent women, and 57 percent under the age of 35.”
73%! That means, roughly, that 3 of every 4 tickets sold during that magical weekend were sold to women. The film did so well, in fact, that Warner Brothers is released a sequel this summer, Magic Mike XXL.
My friend Shaunti Feldhahn and I recently wrote a book called Through a Man’s Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men. It’s about how men process the world visually, meaning we tend to stop and stare, especially when beautiful women are around. It doesn’t excuse that behavior, but it helps explain why we do what we do.
But then we started thinking about the phenomenon of Magic Mike and its sequel, and we asked ourselves the question: Did we write the wrong book?
Are women any less visual than men?
After all: they’re the ones who bought tickets to stare at Channing Tatum’s abs up on that screen.
Sure, a lot of women turned Magic Mike into a verified surprise hit. And that was news.
And that’s why we know we’re on the right track with our book.
Magic Mike (and, presumably, its sequel) is a film that became newsworthy because it served up eye candy for women. That was a big deal.
You know what isn’t a big deal? A movie that serves up eye candy for men.
That’s the default. Throw a dart at the “now playing” section of Fandango and you’ll probably find a film that shows off some woman’s curves, cleavage, or more. It isn’t surprising, it isn’t mind-blowing, and it sure isn’t news.
Want to learn more about how men think, feel, and process the world around them? Check out the Through A Man's Eyes video series and workshop for expert advice and insight on how to understand and communicate with the men in your life.