It’s been quite a while since I last wrote about my favorite topic—CHICK FLICKS—so I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by doing a retrospective analysis of 2012′s chick flicks and sharing a few of my hopes and dreams for 2013′s.

*A reminder to faithful readers/warning to new ones*: My definition of “chick flick” (“a movie I’d want to (or am most likely to) see with female friends”) is exceedingly liberal and allows for the inclusion of all sorts of films, ranging from the likes of Pretty Woman, Mean Girls, and Bridesmaids, to The Twilight Saga movies and Magic Mike. It is entirely subjective, and you are, as always, free to disagree with my selection. (If you do, I hope you’ll do me the courtesy of doing so respectfully.)

Abbreviation Key & Notes
DTG = Domestic Total Gross……TG = Total Gross……M = Million ($)
Films dated by U.S. release date (IMDb). All $$ from Box Office Mojo and rounded to the nearest hundred-thousand ($).

2012 in Retrospect:

Chick Flicks, Numbers, & Trends

Let’s start by identifying the players and looking at some key numbers. The following films are, in my opinion, the chick flicks of 2012…

10 Years
Anna Karenina
Bachelorette
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Damsels in Distress
Darling Companion
The First Time
The Five-Year Engagement
For a Good Time, Call…
Friends with Kids
The Guilt Trip
Hope Springs
The Hunger Games
Joyful Noise

L!fe Happens
Liberal Arts
LOL
Lola Versus
The Lucky One
Magic Mike
Nobody Walks
One for the Money
The Oranges
Parental Guidance
People Like Us
The Perfect Family
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Pitch Perfect
Playing for Keeps

Ruby Sparks
Sassy Pants
Save the Date
Sparkle
Take This Waltz
That’s What She Said
Think Like a Man
This Is 40
This Means War

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2
Vamps
The Vow

What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Won’t Back Down
Your Sister’s Sister

45 chick flicks, released by 24 distributors, featuring 102 actresses in primary roles

2 rated PG
$72,969,000 (DTG)
$101,834,000 (TG)

25 rated PG-13
$1,409,705,803 (DTG)
$2,672,209,167 (TG)

18 rated R
$238,105,566 (DTG)
$373,083,566 (TG)

Box Office Top 10 (Domestic)
1. The Hunger Games ($408.0M)
2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part. 2 ($290.8M)
3. The Vow ($125.0M)
4. Magic Mike ($113.7M)
5. Think Like a Man ($91.5M)
6. Parental Guidance ($67.7M)
7. This Is 40 ($65.2M)
8. Pitch Perfect ($64.9M)
9. Hope Springs ($63.5M)
10. The Lucky One ($60.5M)

Domestic Total Gross =
$1,720,780,369

Box Office Top 10 (Total)
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 ($826.6M)
2. The Hunger Games ($686.5M)
3. The Vow ($196.1M)
4. Magic Mike ($167.2M)
5. This Means War ($156.5)
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($134.4M)
7. Hope Springs ($107.3M)
8. Pitch Perfect ($107.1M)
9. Parental Guidance ($96.5M)
10.Think Like a Man ($96.1M)

Total Gross =
$3,147,126,733

Collectively, the chick flicks of 2012 have three noteworthy trends: (1) women at the creative helm; (2) film festival appearances; and (3) strong female characters.

(1) Women at the Creative Helm

Women directed 13 of the year’s 45 chick flicks. Ruby Sparks, was directed by a co-ed team, yielding a total of 14 female directors.

18 films had only female screenwriters, numbering 25 in total. 6 other films were written by co-ed teams including one woman each, adding another 6 female screenwriters to the count, for an overall total of 31.

A number of ladies pulled double-duty by both writing and directing a 2012 chick flick, including Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), Amy Heckerling (Vamps), Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz), and Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister). Others, like Rashida Jones (Celeste and Jesse Forever), Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), and Lauren Miller (For a Good Time, Call…), chose instead to co-write and star in their films. And one very busy woman, Jennifer Westfeldt, did triple-duty by writing, directing, and starring in Friends with Kids.

2012′s chick flicks featured 102 different actresses in primary/lead roles. 9 actresses appeared in 2 films each (Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Lizzy Caplan, Rosemarie DeWitt, Greta Gerwig, Allison Janney, Anna Kendrick, Krysten Ritter, and Alia Shawkat), 2 actresses did 3 films each (Ari Graynor and Rebel Wilson), and 1 actress can be seen in 4 (Elizabeth Banks).

2 actresses appearing in 3 or more films had combined domestic total grosses over $100 million: Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, People Like Us, Pitch Perfect, What to Expect When You’re Expecting || $526.5M) and Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette, Pitch Perfect, What to Expect When You’re Expecting || $106.5M).

Still of Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games. Photo by Murray Close. © 2011 Lions Gate Films Inc.

Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games. Photo: Murray Close. © 2011 Lions Gate Films Inc.

Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect. © 2012 Universal Pictures.

Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect.
© 2012 Universal Pictures.

(2) Film Festival Appearances

19 of 2012′s 45 chick flicks appeared in the Sundance, Toronto, and Tribeca 2011 and 2012 lineups. 7 films showed at the 2011 festivals, and 14 films earned spots in 2012. Take This Waltz played at both Toronto 2011 and Tribeca 2012. Your Sister’s Sister had spots in all three festivals, showing at Toronto 2011, Sundance 2012, and Tribeca 2012.

Sundance 2012: 9
Bachelorette
Celeste and Jesse Forever
The First Time
For a Good Time, Call…
Liberal Arts
Nobody Walks
Save the Date
That’s What She Said
Your Sister’s Sister

Toronto 2011: 6
10 Years
Damsels in Distress
Friends with Kids
The Oranges
Take This Waltz
Your Sister’s Sister
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Toronto 2012: 2
Anna Karenina
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Tribeca 2011: 1
The Perfect Family
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Tribeca 2012: 4
The Five-Year Engagement
Lola Versus
Take This Waltz
Your Sister’s Sister

Bonus fact: The First Time, Nobody Walks, and Save the Date competed against each other for the Sundance 2012 Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic (awarded to Beasts of the Southern Wild).

(3) Strong Female Characters (FTW!)

Many primary female characters in 2012′s chick flicks unexpectedly found themselves learning how to make delicious lemonade with their respective life-lemons, often discovering the extent of their personal strength along the way. Among these strong women were The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel‘s Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Muriel (Maggie Smith), The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), For a Good Time, Call…‘s Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor), and Won’t Back Down‘s Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Nona (Viola Davis).

This trend was not unique to 2012′s chick flicks. Notable characters/performances of this nature from other film genres included Butter‘s Destiny (Yara Shahidi), The Dark Knight Rises‘ Selina (Anne Hathaway), Silver Linings Playbook‘s Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and Zero Dark Thirty‘s Maya (Jessica Chastain), to name only a few.

A significant number of the strong female characters were also women who knew what they wanted—in life and in the bedroom—and from whom they wanted it. (Not judging—applauding.) These self-aware and (mostly) confident ladies included Bachelorette‘s Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Friends with Kids‘ Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt), Hope Springs‘ Kay (Meryl Streep), Liberal Arts‘ Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), all the women of Think Like a Man (Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall, and Jenifer Lewis), and Your Sister’s Sister‘s Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt).

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in Friends with Kids. © 2011 Roadside Attractions.

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in Friends with Kids. © 2011 Roadside Attractions.

On the other hand, looking at the big picture shows that most of 2012′s chick flicks did not find overwhelming success at the box office. For each film with a DTG over $50 million, there were nearly 2 with domestic grosses under $5 million.

The fact that many of the 2012 chick flicks were “indie” nature and had smaller distribution channels than studio films probably contributed to these results. In some cases, however, there could have been another deal-breaker for mainstream audiences: the film’s subject matter(s) and/or sense of humor.

The reality is that some topics and jokes are just too far outside the box for today’s mainstream moviegoers. They may not be ready for constant talk of vaginas and vibrators, or to see a character’s cocaine-induced nosebleed stain a friend’s wedding dress. But five or ten years down the road, currently taboo subjects may begin to find favor with the mainstream.

Remember: it took 11 years after the TV-trendsetter Sex and the City tackled the “fuck buddy” (September 1999) for the concept to be successfully adapted for the silver screen, as it was in 2011′s No Strings Attached ($70.7M DTG) and Friends with Benefits ($55.8M DTG). You never know what the future will bring, so don’t let the haters get you down. (And, for whatever they may be worth, here are my thoughts on the key ingredients of a commercially successful chick flick: This Chick’s Flicks: How to Make a “Successful” Chick Flick.)

My Hopes & Dreams for
the Chick Flicks of 2013

Generally speaking, I try to adhere to the age-old adage “if I have nothing nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.” Today, however, I’m going to deviate from this policy. Why the sudden about-face? In my ever-humble opinion, one 2012 chick flick committed a cardinal sin against the genre I love, and I express my displeasure with it here in the hope of preventing future films from doing the same.

When I watch a chick flick, I want to see female characters that are, for the most part, realistic and generally likable. Like women I am already be friends with, or could be in the future. (And a villainess or two—a Regina George or a Taylor Vaughan, for example—is almost always welcome too.)

What I do not want to see, however, are female characters whose lack of self-respect lends their personalities to descriptors like “pathetic” and “totally desperate.” Other than very rare cases—such as Kathryn Hahn‘s character in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days—I feel that such characters disparage my gender in a trite and somewhat misogynistic way that renders their films not worth the price of admission.

And I certainly have no interest in paying to see talented and celebrated actresses playing such characters.

Three of the four primary ladies in 2012′s Playing for Keeps—played by Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Judy Greer— are, unfortunately, characters of this variety. Their palpable desperation renders their characters’ antics beyond any real entertainment value, and the frenzied fervor with which they chase Gerard Butler is uncomfortably absurd. I am sorry that I paid to see three such highly accomplished actresses debase themselves in this manner, and I hope that the film’s box office performance will caution against ever asking these women (or others like them) to do so again.

Returning to the positive side of things, I would like to see the upward trend in female-helmed chick flicks continue. Although the 2012 numbers for female directors and screenwriters may seem paltry, a comparison to 29 chick flicks released in 2011 shows that there has actually been tremendous growth in these areas. The 2011 films had only 2 female directors (of 31 total) and only 17 female screenwriters (of 44 total), with 10 films written by women only. Compared to the 2012 numbers, there’s been a 600% increase in the number of female directors, an 82.4% increase in the number of female screenwriters, and an 80.0% increase in the number of films written by only women. Not too shabby…but we can do better.

Finally, I leave you with a list of 2013 chick flicks to look forward to (organized by U.S. release date)…

Struck By Lightning (1/11)
Warm Bodies (2/1)
Identity Thief (2/8)
Beautiful Creatures (2/14)
Safe Haven (2/14)
21 and Over (3/1)
Admission (3/8)

Oz: The Great and Powerful (3/8)
Ginger & Rosa (3/15)
Spring Breakers (3/22)
The Host (3/29)
Stuck in Love (4/19)
The Big Wedding (4/26)

The Great Gatsby (5/10)
The Heat (6/28)
Girl Most Likely (7/19)
We’re the Millers (8/9)
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (8/16)

The To Do List (8/16)
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (8/23)
The Best Man 2 (11/15)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (11/22)

And, just for fun, a few more (in post-production or completed) that I hope we’ll get to see in 2013…

Adult World
BFFs
The Bling Ring

Can a Song Save Your Life?

Drinking Buddies
G.B.F.
Gay Dude
Get a Job

Hateship, Friendship
I Give It a Year
Middleton
Romeo and Juliet

Serena
Sleeping Around
Thanks for Sharing
Very Good Girls

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The Vow poster image: © 2011 Sony Pictures. Pitch Perfect poster image: © 2012 Universal Pictures.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting poster image: © 2012 Lions Gate. This Chick’s Flicks logo: © 2012 Kristal Bailey .

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and her feature column, This Chick’s Flicks, for pieces on the chick flicks of now and then.