I am both amused and appalled to watch from the sidelines this spectacle of Hollywood movie execs trying to figure out how to cash in on the Sex And The City female frenzy. (Well, at least until the chick flick dropped 34% from Friday to Saturday, thus easing their initial panic. But the pic did a better than expected Sunday to end up with a final $56.8 million for the weekend.) At least Warner Bros quickly decided to embrace a Sex sequel. But that same studio is sitting on a potential successor, maybe even a reproducible event, about to come out September 12th. Yet WB is giving The Women the cold shoulder. Especially after this weekend, you’d think that Warner Bros would be jumping all over Picturehouse’s long awaited Diane English low-budgeted $16.5 million remake of the famed Clare Booth Luce play and 1939 George Cukor film. Forget about the merits of the movie: I’m talking about the potential for box office moolah stirred up by some savvy Sex-exploiting. Instead, I’ve just been told that Warner Bros is still going to let Picturehouse market and distribute the movie in very limited release even though Picturehouse is in the process of shutting down. Here is Warner Bros able to control the PG-13 comedy — just like it did Sex And The City from HBO Films and New Line, the studios that created Picturehouse  — but isn’t interested.

I’m told Warner Bros execs including movie boss and charter member of the he-man women-haters club Jeff Robinov (who keeps maintaining he was just joking when he said he didn’t want to make any more motion pictures with women as the leads) recently screened The Women and didn’t like it. “It’s not Sex In The City. It’s just not that kind of movie,” a studio insider insisted to me. Puh-leeze, who indeed wants a low-budget $16.5 million chick flick written, directed and produced by one of the biz’s greatest women’s comedy writers of seminal Murphy Brown fame… That stars quality “name” actress like Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Debi Mazur, Joanna Gleason, Carrie Fisher, Lynn Whitfield and Cloris Leachman… That reworks the original so it takes place in the broadcasting world and an ashram-like retreat where Meg plays a fashion designer and wife and mother, Eva the skanky mistress, and Annette the deliciously two-faced BFF and so on…

English has told the media that the most brutal part of her 15-year battle to make The Women “was getting financing. Studios still think it’s a fluke when a women’s picture succeeds. I’m going to prove them wrong — again.” I say Diane should be kicking up a big fat fuss right now for a major and wide release. After all, even if the movie is no good, its marketing campaign could be fabulous not to mention obvious: “If you loved Sex In The City, then you need to see The Women who started it all.”

Here’s the trailer. Two updates below…

UPDATE: Well, this is an interesting development for The Women. A top Warner Bros exec just phoned me and said, “We should give it another look.” I hope the studio does. With just an $16.5 million negative cost, and Sex And The City fresh in female minds, I see no reason to platform this pic to “find” an audience. It’s never made sense to me for any studio to spend $30+M to market a limited release film that isn’t intended for serious awards consideration, only to open the wallet still wider if and when the pic opens in more theaters in order to combat all the cineplex clutter. My feeling is that, these days, studios need to do everything possible to make their money the first and second weekends for low-budget films — and then the rest is gravy. Besides, those quality actresses in a “frenemy” comedy is a draw, so I bet women will line up for at least a $20M opening weekend in wide release even if it’s only so-so — as long as Warner Bros draws heavily on SATC and markets it as another pic about female friendships and upscale lifestyles and urban sex.

Also, someone whose opinion I greatly respect tells me The Women is “a laugh riot… truly hysterical…”

2nd UPDATE: One of the Warner Bros films which Jeff Robinov cited to the Hollywood community while defending himself against my he-man women-haters club story was the comedy Spring Breakdown, starring a top-notch cast of great female comediennes including Parker Posey, Amy Poehler and fellow SNL alumna Rachel Dratch who also stars in and co-wrote it. “The studio has decided, despite excellent test scores with women of all ages, and Amy Poehler’s rising stardom (Baby Mama), that it should go straight to DVD,” a source tells me. “This is pure and unadulterated hatred of female driven projects, especially comedies, at that studio. It’s a real  shame about this film, because women love it.” Personally, I’m not at all sure the more sophisticated female audience for Sex And The City and The Women is clamoring for a dumbed-down women’s comedy. But could it be worse content-wise than the Harold & Kumar franchise?

  1. Hollywood Opines About Its Smackdowns
  2. TOLDJA! Warner’s Jeff Robinov Promoted
  3. Finke/LA Weekly: Hollywood’s He-Man Woman Haters Club
  4. Is Jeff Robinov Ready For WB Moguldom?
  5. The Reality Behind Jeff Robinov’s “Denial”
  6. Warner’s Robinov Bitchslaps Film Women