Both Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road hit theaters this weekend, with the a cappella sequel winning the box office, raking in an estimated $70 million and the apocalyptic action flick coming in second with just over $44 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
Both films involve a gang of girls on a mission: In Pitch Perfect 2, college ladies band together to win a signing competition; in Mad Max a woman leads other young women on a mission to flee an oppressive dictator and find new home.
But the there's something else at work here: Pitch Perfect 2's audience was largely ladies — 72 percent female, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. While Pitch Perfect 2 hasn't made anywhere near as much cash as Avengers: Age of Ultron (the big winner this summer so far, with $372 million in domestic sales), this strong opening weekend proves that women want to see stories about women on screen.
Pitch Perfect 2 is not a great movie — the plot meanders, there's no sense of urgency, the jokes fall flat and a spectre of racist stereotyping hovers over quite a few characters and scenes. But the flick has a predominantly female cast, was written by a woman and directed by a woman — Elizabeth Banks, who also reprises her role as singing competition commentator — and highlights just how vital women are to Hollywood.
As we know, the state of women working in Hollywood is dismal — and it's so bad, in fact, that that the American Civil Liberties Union is getting involved. The ACLU is investigating the film industry, due to what it calls "rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors."
Mad Max: Fury Road is a far more superior film than Pitch Perfect 2 — it's taut, relentless, breathtaking — and despite being named for Max, the character played by Tom Hardy, the women of the film steal the spotlight. Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa is an unbeatable steely force of nature, and the gang of girls she's rescuing — including actors Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough and Rosie Huntington-Whitely — are resourceful and determined.
Pitch Perfect 2 may have won the box office opening weekend, but Mad Max just might get more word-of-mouth staying power and continue to sell tickets. Still: At the theater in Manhattan where I saw Pitch Perfect 2 on Sunday (before heading to a different theater to see Max Max) — there were literal girl gangs in the seats: Young women arrived in groups of five, seven, or more, eager to see a movie made by women, about women, starring women. As it turns out, they had more power than a war rig running on nitro, at least over the weekend.