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Will women flock to 'The Women'?

September 5, 2008 |  6:28 pm

Ctlogo The billboards for "The Women," Picturehouse’s comedy-drama opening Sept. 12, won’t win any awards for subtlety. The Time Warner Inc. specialty label just hopes they help win group ticket sales.

"Get your friends together and celebrate the women," the tagline implores.

By "friends" the implication is clear: Women should buy a whole bunch of tickets and go as a group.

Picturehouse, which is releasing its final film before getting subsumed by Warner Bros., hopes it has a mini-version of "Sex and the City" on its hands with the $16-million production starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith in a tale of interweaving relationships rife with gossip and scheming.

New Line Cinema and Warner’s "Sex and the City" opened in May to a surprising $57 million, driven in part by group sales as gals got together to watch the movie with their friends, hooting and hollering at the screen. "The Women," written and directed by "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English, is an update of the snarky 1939 classic based on a Broadway play. Like the earlier film, the gimmick is that no males appear, even on the streets of New York City.

Originally the movie was going to get a lower-profile rollout. But Picturehouse President Bob Berney said that after "Sex and the City" blew away expectations, he prevailed upon Warner to give his movie a wider release with far more marketing support. The prints and advertising budget mushroomed to $25 million, from about $10 million, and the movie will open at 2,800-plus theaters, instead of 500 as originally scheduled.

"We hope that because of our campaign, women will plan to go to the movie together," Berney said. "We're trying to be very upfront."

Although the success of "Sex and the City" helped shape the release pattern, the push for group sales was always part of the marketing strategy, Berney said.

The trailers tease: "When the women get together, there will be no secrets, no lies, no warnings." When the stars plug the movie on talk shows, they will drop hints about how the viewing experience is meant to be shared among girlfriends, he said.

Of course, despite its popularity in film buff circles, "The Women" is nowhere near the cultural phenomenon that "Sex and the Ciy" became after a decade on TV, including reruns.

Rival studio executives say "The Women" is tracking strongly with females over 25, but overall it is shaping up more like "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" for the older set than a "Sex and the City" or other films that have attracted heavy group sales, including the "Star Wars" series and "The Passion of the Christ."

Berney says he’d be happy with an opening weekend of $10 million or better. If women show up in bunches, he could be celebrating as well.

-- Josh Friedman

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