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"Xbox Factor" Transforming the Movie Industry

| 23 Feb 2010 15:42
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"Chick flicks" have been flexing some surprising box office muscle recently, thanks to what movie industry executives are now referring to as "the Xbox factor."

The chick flick is a familiar cinematic beast: An insipid love story or syrupy tear-jerker, typically starring a hunky Hollywood half-talent, a perky actress whose name begins with "J" and a dumpy, disheveled character actor nobody can name who pops up every now and then to provide wise counsel or zany comic relief, depending on circumstances. There's obviously an audience for these things - movie studios keep making them, after all - but, angsty vampires notwithstanding, it hasn't historically been what you'd call a big money demographic.

That may be about to change, however, thanks to the so-called "Xbox factor," the term some in the industry are using to explain the loss of male movie audiences to videogame consoles. "A lot of young males are spending much more time on the internet, games and UFC [ultimate fighting]," Mandalay Pictures Chairman Peter Guber told the Sunday Telegraph. "They have not abandoned movies but they have diminished as a target, while the female audience has remained robust."

Videogame revenues have dramatically overshadowed the box office but it's a heavily male-dominated interest, leading Hollywood to try to figure out how to cater to the "new" female demographic. The process has been made all the more urgent by the surprising recent success of films like Dear John and Valentine's Day, which raked in big bucks despite being trashed by critics. According to the report, 84 percent of Dear John viewers were female and 64 percent were under 25.

"For as long as anyone can remember, it's been taken as a given that the movie industry's holy grail is 13-year-old boys. Hence: Transformers, Iron Man, Ninja Assassin," said Nicole Laporte of The Daily Beast.

"But the jaw-dropping success of films such as Twilight, High School Musical, and now, Dear John are proving that these days, it's girls who rule the entertainment industry," she continued. "The movies may be alternately cheesy and sappy, and the scripts laughable, but teen and tween girls don't care."

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