Leading ladies in Hollywood undermined by box-office sales

In this day and age of equal rights, it’s still a bit of a shocker to discover that women and men do not earn equal wages for the same jobs worked. This discrepancy is nowhere more glaringly obvious than in Hollywood.

It’s difficult to find exact figures actors and actresses make – most Hollywood executives try to keep this information quiet because well-known “asking prices” can cause other actors or actresses to ask for a raise. The Hollywood Reporter released a list last December of the ten top-paid leading ladies in Hollywood. It was breaking news at the time that Nicole Kidman topped the list at $16-17 million per film for her latest role in “Invasion.”

This still comes nowhere near the top-paid leading men in Hollywood. The Saturday Post put together a list of best-paid actors from various sources such as The New York Times, Business Week and The Guardian. If Reese Witherspoon were on this list, she would come in at eighth place.

When Tom Cruise can top the highest-paid actors list by receiving $100 million per film for movies like “War of the Worlds,” this is no surprise. But what of newcomer Sacha Baron Cohen, who comes in second on that list, pulling in $30 million per film for his latest, “Bruno,” when he’s only had one truly successful film to his name (“Borat”)?

Six out of the top ten highest-paid actresses have received Oscars for amazing performances, but the list of top-paid actors cannot say the same. The list of highest-grossing actors also includes Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. Although a few of them have received Oscar nominations, none of them have actually won the award.

Isn’t the Oscar the ultimate award to be won for acting abilities? Shouldn’t the winner of these prestigious awards then be expected to earn an increased paycheck? After all, there is a higher demand for acting in even better roles once they win an Oscar.

So why are such popular and talented actresses as Angelina Jolie (also an Oscar winner) only bringing in $10 million per film (as she did for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”)?

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It all has to do with box-office sales. The Hollywood A-list of actors consists of stars that can guarantee a high amount of revenue, no matter what they act in. This list includes Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy and Will Smith. However, only one female is known to be among their ranks: Julia Roberts.

The target audience for movies is generally male and falls between the teenage years to early- to mid-adulthood. As such, most movies are marketed to this group, and that tends to eliminate any strong female roles. It’s no surprise that the highest-grossing box office films tend to be “stud duds” rather than “chick flicks.”

There are many complaints about a lack of substance in the theaters or rehashed remakes and sequels. Surely I’ve been one of these people myself. But the fact remains that Hollywood puts out a lot of cash and needs to recoup some profits somewhere. That’s why these films continue to get made.

If moviegoers want to see more thought-provoking films with female leads, they need to financially support the ones that are being made.

Granted, this is difficult to do in Anchorage, where we don’t always get those types of films. I find it incredibly frustrating to read about all the great independent films released in bigger cities. Yet we do have some of these independent, foreign or less-than-mainstream films playing at Century 16 or Bear Tooth Theatrepub, theaters that support those films because they know there is an audience willing to pay to see them.

It takes a large amount of revenue to reach the attention of those that matter. Instead of only going to see the blockbusters, why not take in a few of these other stories that include some of your favorite actresses as well?

As box-office sales for these types of films increase, Hollywood will begin to get the message. They will produce more of these movies, and the talented actresses that populate the same screens will begin to receive higher-paying salaries, which is only fair.

You have the ability to determine which of these films will be successful and which will likely be repeated at the box office in years to come. Isn’t it time we gave some payback to our favorite leading ladies?