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Good morning Billy.
'thinking over-40 year-olds will brave the multiplexes, given something of substance to chew on.'
I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head with your question. As a member of the female 40+ audience with disposable income and a comfy armchair/glass of fermented grape juice always at hand, the movie business had better come up with something spectacular to persuade me to get out into the nearest noisy, sticky floor, dirty multiplex [ no one actually rests their head on those head rests do they?] and pay large sums for the privelege. For the price of a cinema ticket in my local cinema I could buy a DVD or a hard back book.
And there lies the rub.
Books. Fiction. Romantic comedy is not just chick lit, as you well know, and intelligent fiction, whatever you want to call it, is booming here in the UK. Autobiography. Crime. Romance. Chick lit mystery. Women my age love books. I can think of a handful of TV shows I would watch - most of them written by top talent teams in the US. But books? Oh yes.
That is the only answer I can give you. We are not going to the cinema on dates. We are not going to the cinema to watch sequels [ well okay, maybe Harry Potter, but not Pirates or Shrek or Spiderman, we are an impatient and critical bunch], we want you to give us an emotional ride, cathartic if you like, which we cannot get from fiction.
And that, is not going to be easy, because we have 40plus years of life and a multitude of storylines/TV/Cinema inside our heads. Been there, done that. Next. We are the generation who first went to the cinema when High Society, Dr Zhivago and Ryans Daughter were still showing.
Original. Yes. Repeats, no thanks.
So. Go on. Surprise us. I will probably watch Georgia Rule on DVD, but pay for the experience a big screen provides for the big blockbusters. Anyone else feel the same?


Thanks Billy! Another great, thought-provoking post!

Ray-Anne, I agree with all you say!

I saw an interview with Marc Cuban where he said he wants to improve the adult movie going experience by opening theaters with better seats, excellent restaurant food, cocktails, free popcorn and all sorts of adult conveniences.

I would love to see a rom com like
the Holiday at an "adult" theater.

I am writing a rom com that I hope will appeal to women and men.

My male cowriter thinks we just need to have more sex and nudity!

Of course I want more love and romance!

I thought A GOOD YEAR with Russell Crowe was a great rom com, but it may not have done well at the box office.

I thought it was rom com that both men and women over 25 could enjoy.

Yay for the Rom Com!

Long may it live!

Laura Deerfield

Part of the issue is re-defining success for a film.

Movies with big special effects or sweeping cinematography, I'll make an effort to see in the theater. Most others, I'll wait and watch at home. And I'm not alone in this, by far. Pronouncing a film dead in the water if it doesn't make a profit opening weekend is a mistake... but skipping the theatrical release and going straight to DVD is also a mistake, because the theatrical release is what generates the buzz that will get me to buy the DVD.

Are there exceptions? Of course. But then, I'm an avid movie-goer and go out to the theater an average of once a week. Comfortable adult-oriented chains (Studio Movie Grill, Angelika, Magnolia) help, but what makes me decide to watch one movie over another when I am out?

1) Buzz... living in Dallas, there's a good chance that my friends on the coasts have already seen a movie before it opens here. What are they saying about it?

2) Casting. There are actors I'll see in anything, regardless of what I've heard about it. Morgan Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Kevin Spacey, Robert Downey, jr., Anjelica Houston, Johnny Depp for example... maybe not the same stars that most people would come out for on name alone, but they've rarely let me down.

3) The director. Callie Khouri, Jane Campion, Peter Greenaway, David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Wes Anderson, Peter Jackson, and a handful of others

4) An original idea. I'm FAR more likely to wait to see a remake or a franchise film, even if it does have good effects.

Nearly every original film that comes out is referred to as an "anomaly" that can't be repeated. That trying to repeat the success of Little Miss Sunshine, or Lost in Translation won't work (and doesn't interest studios anyway, because it's not as profitable as the big-bang films that play well in asia.)

What they are missing, when they say that - is that these movies DO have something in common, something identifiable that may not guarantee success but makes it more likely - and that's an original, well-crafted story.

I do have a question though - with only 4% of films directed by women, women being replaced with men as studio execs, and about 16% of movies having no women at all on the crew... how is it that there have not been major discrimination lawsuits in Hollywood?

When I hear successful women directors talk about being treated like children, especially when they want to direct something other than a "chick flick" - an entity most studios can barely define as it is.


Of course you are right Billy, but here's the rub: will the agencies/studios/execs get behind such scripts?

I have an intelligent sophisticated rom-com script that's been optioned, gotten excellent coverage (a CAA recommend, even), that's thrust me into the strangeland of the hip pocket and yet everyone says "Great script, tough sell."

If only I could get it to some actors to read because I think they'd really connect with the material, but I can't get it past the gate keepers.

We know what the audience wants, but we have to put together a script that will excite the suits. So whose fault is it really, then? The writers or the execs? How do we propel ourselves past this apparent Catch-22? (Give 'em what they want= same-o same-o; come up with something smart= "love it, but don't have time to do it justice, now if you were a produced writer we could really set this up...)

E.C. Henry

Great post, Billy. Well worth a weeks wait!

What scares me the most in Hollywood, right now is the LACK OF DEVOLOPEMENT of stars under the age of 35. The rom/com would be best served by finding the next Meg Ryan, who is young and can string together a series of hits. Linsey Lohan is the obvius choice, BUT I'm hoping someone else rises that perch, Jennifer Love Hewitt, or maybe that actress who played Meg's daughter in the movie, "In the Land of Women."

As for the SOS scripts dilema, all I've got to say is the studios aren't looking hard enough for quality material. All those contests out there, floating new avant-garde ideas, and you're telling me you can't find originality? I don't buy it.

"Looking for love in all the wrong places."

Still, with you, Billy Mernit, as the "Inside Man" champoning the 21st century cause of the rom/com there's hope. At least I'm optomistic. Lead on, my captain, lead on...

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

P.S. Lynda Obst rocks! But I wish she'd focus more of her energy on making quality films then crusading for equality in the buisness.

Rachel Hauck

Hi, great post. Just bought your book "Writing the Romantic Comedy."

I'm a fiction author - chick lit - gasp and shudder. :)

I'm always looking for new ideas and angles.

To me what falls apart in most chick books and movies is the lack of character development and well... morals.

We don't show woman really being empowered in life. We show them trying to behave like men.

They sleep around then wonder why their life is falling apart. Or worse, movies/books don't show life and emotions falling apart.

Been there. Done that. Know the truth.

Also, we too easily fall into cliche's.

Loved the Devil Wears Prada for it's unique angle on a girl really trying to make a career for herself.

Been there, done that, too. It's hard.

As a writer, what intrigues me is true romance. And as a woman, I think that's the thing that we really want.

Especially the over 40 set. Give us true romance. Something's Gotta Give does that.

Ultimately, the twenty-something set will go for it. Women are women. ;)

Also, today's view is smarter. Don't leave time warps and character lapses in the movie. We get it.We'll notice it.

I loved While You Were Sleeping. Still do. But I never bought the time warp with Lucy meeting Jack. Where was he all Christmas day? And the next when the family celebrated a late-Christmas? He doesn't show up until every one's in bed? He's a furniture mover!

Anyway, bottom line, write a great story/script from your heart. It will resonate with people.

Thanks for you site!



you want a picture that will draw matter how much plastic you pump into those tits they arent going to make those broads into actresses, they are just going to be top heavy pretenders. the sickest thing in hollywood is 10 pounds of useless plastic pumped into som ugly broads tits. None of them can act, but even if they could no one will ever know. females have never went to the moviesto see the sickos they like me would rather see decent acing. Katherine Hepburn was probably the best actress weve seen this century & she diddent have to jump up & down to get a good part get rid of the plastic tits & you'll get some females with GOOD LOOKING breasts, real ones trying out for the good parts. Put the plastic up thierbutts and get us some real actresses then you'll get females into the theaters & me too. not everyone likes oversized plastic chests.
did you ever try to suck on one of those 'things' it like sucking on a cantalope-Allen


You know, I was going to come up with some clever comment about how all media entertainment is testosterone-centric, but after the truly amazing comment right before mine, boy howdy, I got nothin'.


What I'm looking for:

(1) films that don't depart from their own established reality in order to accomodate a certain demographic.

(2) films that don't make the character so ridiculously unsympathetic that I can't buy into their situation, transformation, restoration, or reconciliation

(3) smart - silly smart, cerebral smart, artsy smart, whatever, as long as it's smart.


Good post, Billy.

What gets me to the cinema? An actor I really like or one of those top class Brit ensembles; a director or writer I like; an intriguing story; good reviews. Oh, and the fact that I've got an Unlimited card, so I pay £10 a month to see as many films as I want.

Unlike Ray-ann who says "we" are not going to watch sequels, I'll be going to HP5 and Spidey3 and Shrek3 and Pirates3 because I don't just want to watch films about wimpy females falling for improbably lovely Brits (The Holiday) or some other implausible romcom, I want some action, some set pieces, and a good story and probably a few snogs too. And if I'm not getting action and set-pieces, I want a really good strong story with characters I feel something for, not characters I just want to slap (everyone in The Last Kiss, The Break Up, Wedding Crashers, Alot Like Love etc etc). When did I last see a decent romcom at the flicks? D'you know, I can't remember.

I think that's the problem with thinking of a "women's picture" - do all men like the same thing? I doubt it. So why should all women, or even all "women of a certain age" be expected to like the same thing?


Someone needs to figure out how to write the non-sucky, non-cheezy, non-vomity "The Notebook". That movie was so close, yet so far, from being good.

Romantic movies have to be smart. And there has to be half-naked hot dudes. We need a female Kevin Smith. WHERE IS SHE??

Miriam Paschal

I'm over 40, but I can still stand (barely) to go to the movies with the popcorn and screaming kids and cell-phones that still ring during the previews. I like the big screen experience.

What we need are not more good rom-coms with strong female characters, but more action and horror films with strong female characters. Part of the appeal of the Pirates franchise is that Keira fights alongside her men. And who didn't love Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Sorry, Billy. I know you're a rom-com kinda guy, but we need to see women killing bad guys and destroying monsters if we're really going to break this male-character-dominated pattern.

Laura Deerfield

I agree Miriam.

I do like RomComs once in a while, but I LOVE seeing a woman kick ass.

Not only fighting alongside the men, but showing that dilemma common to most women's real lives: how can you be a good mother/wife and still kick ass?

Too bad Bandidas sucked so badly.


I cross the Atlantic when I want to see a good "women's picture" and go to Spain. Almodovar populates his films with colorful, interesting women and stories about their struggles. We have no real equivalent in the states.

I was turned off be recent rom coms -- they were shallow. I read the script for Catch and Release and was disappointed by it, so I didn't see the film. It lacked that certain something that the classic rom coms have. I saw the Holiday and cringed - ugh. I enjoyed the performances, but the script was a mess and the story was unrealistic. Music and Lyrics? I wasn't grabbed by the trailer. The Break Up? Most people I know hated it -- it was too much like a real break up with no resolution, no learning, no arc, no nothing. The great part about Swingers was that we were left with this feeling that the pathetic guy had transcended his situation. But in the Break Up, we were left with the feeling that the characters had wasted their time with each other, and we had too!

A list of films since like 2000 that I think were especially appealing to women I know: Amelie, Eternal Sunshine, Before Sunset, Laurel Canyon, In Her Shoes, Little Miss Sunshine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Best in Show, Bend It Like Beckham, Notes on a Scandal, Spanglish (a big hit with the parents despite its critical panning), Something's Gotta Give, etc.

What am I looking for personally? Smart comedy or insightful drama. I just saw Hot Fuzz and loved it. Next on my list: Year of the Dog, the Valet and After the Wedding.

I recently watched 9 to 5 with my boyfriend, to show him Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton in the day. We laughed and laughed and laughed - now that's a great women's picture!!

Julie Goes To Hollywood

The sexiest thing a man can ask a woman for is her opinion. As to how I like to see women treated in movies, in a word, with dimension. Although I enjoyed "The Break-Up" I actually thought the woman was underwritten. You could actually see a bunch of guys sitting around writing their whiny girlfriends, but they were cute enough about it that it was fun to watch. As for Devil Wears Prada, I was recently brought in to pitch a re-write on an Aline Brosh McKenna script, and it was the first time I ever thought, wow, this doesn't suck. She writes incredible dialogue and characters. But I think the real reason that film resonated was the universal theme of the boss from hell. The romance didn't feel the least bit satisfying to me, and it's interesting to note that the love interest they chose to cast was a certain Mr. Small Screen who pretends to be something much larger every Sunday night. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but if we're talking chick wish fulfillment, I thought that was kind of fun!


Ray-Anne certainly makes sense to me.

And Debbie B offers the logical solution -- a movie theater adults would actually enjoy being in! We have that here in L.A. at the Arclight -- it's more expensive, but it's an ideal environment and worth every penny; it makes seeing a film an event to look forward to, as opposed to an "endure the venue" trial.

Laura's buzz/casting/director/original idea paradigm sounds like a universal one. Re: the suits, I think it's the age-old "too busy looking for a gig (and thus out of pocket) to sue" story.

tc: oh lord but is this on the money. that's the conundrum we face, and unfortunately it seems that only luck and brute perseverance gets any of us across the chasm...

Actually EC, there's a TON of younger actresses in that field. from Rachel McAdams to Scarlett J, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner, etc. None has yet emerged as the clear New Julia, is all. Re: originality, all I can tell you, after over 6,000 script reads since I moved out here, is that it's rarer than you'd think.

Welcome, Rachel: I think your "women trying to behave like men" issue is a true and provocative one...

And thank you Allen for your unique male perspective (I'd have to agree that "If it ain't real/I don't wanna feel").

What Binnie said. ("Testosterone-centric," indeed.)

MaryAn's big three sounds sound, no?

And one can't argue with Sal.

Yes Jess: I thought we had her in Janeane Garofalo, but she doesn't seem to want to go that

Miriam, don't get me wrong: I love ALIENS as much as the next guy, and I'm with you on Pirate Keira...

Laura: Which is why Lynda Obst's "Adventures in Babysitting" remake sounds like the right idea.

Christina: Would love to see "an American Alomodovar!" Thank you for the great list. I'm going to put it through my Mernalyzer to see if any commonalities pop up at me...

Welcome back, Julie: "The sexiest thing a man can ask a woman for is her opinion" is something I will quote (and live by) from now on...


We need more movies with female clowns, big mouths, and smart asses. Tricksters who go out of bounds and get away with it. Why should guys have all the fun?

Our great women comediennes are tragically missing from most movies that are made now.

Too much dippy romance, not enough comedy in recent romcoms. They’re not really good because they’re not really funny.

Ann Wesley Hardin

Or we need the perfect combination of smart-mouth, sexy and kick-ass who holds her own with men:

Nora Charles.

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time, and a wonderful intro to her character, is when she meets Nick in the bar and immediately tells the bartender to rack up the martinis so she can catch up.

There she is all dolled up, weighed down with shopping, wise-cracking and drinking "like a man."

What a woman!

Julie Goes To Hollywood

"The sexiest thing a man can ask a woman for is her opinion" is something I will quote (and live by) from now on..."

That's lovely, Billy, though I do hope I didn't borrow the sentiment myself. From the Eprhon sisters, perhaps, or Pedro Almadovar. Does plagiarism count when originated in Castillian?


Dottie, you're so right. I see glimmers here and there -- Anna Faris, I think, has a touch of that Lucille Ball quality -- but boy, are we ever ripe for a big, brash comedienne to come on the scene!

...And as Ann points out, ripe for an equally committed star-quality actress with the comedic know-how of an Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell or Jean Arthur.

Tell you what, Julie: When I use the quote, I'll say "As some woman once said..."


I want honesty.

I know that sounds a bit clichéd, but very few films aimed at women deal with an honest and open look at women today. The reason I loved Something’s Gotta Give is because, while it was funny and gushy (romantic), it was also in-your-face honest, without apologizing or sidestepping the issue and theme of aging.

You can no longer sell a majority of women on the Knight-In-Shining-Armor kind of romance. Yet, I feel that a lot of movies still have the woman-in-waiting motif. Prada gave us smart, strong and daring women, with a bit of roughness around the edges. It feels like a majority of female characters are way underwritten, giving them a second-class citizen status in most films.

I want writers and filmmakers to do their research. Talk to women, both young and old; what you see is not always what you get. Dig deeper when creating female characters, and don’t be afraid to give them dimension and depth. I want them to know the female characters they create – I mean, really KNOW them. I can tell when they don’t.


To where should I address my action comedy script with an over-40 actress in the lead? And if you still hold out hope for an, ahem, engaging romantic comedy wedding script, I have one of those, too.

Chera Federle

As a writer and movie-goer, what I want to see in romantic comedy is...

1. House the humor like an old Doris Day film


2. See some real, I mean "REAL" sweeping them off their feet ... be it the man sweeping her off her feet or the woman sweeping him off his feet ...

What ever happened to the real tried and true "LOVE STORY"? I think most of late have turned to such "made up" scenerios that we know (and feel) "this could never happen in a million years." So we are turned off and long for more "realism".

That's what I'm going for any how ... an re: number 1 up there, I'm just a fan of DD's films ... not real slap stick and stupid, but filled with chuckle humor.

btw, I think the Holiday, dispite some flaws, has been one of the better ROMCOM's I've seen in a long while.

Great post, Billy ...

Signed, another woman trying to make it in Hollywood. :)

bill tototlo

Romantic comedy has ALWAYS been my favorite genre, and maybe that's because it really is the most difficult to pull off. The conventions are so obvious that only a half dozen films in the last 50 years have really, really nailed it with conviction. Seriously, I can count about 10 great romantic comedies... ever. Maybe that's the mystique? I dunno.

To be good in this genre isn't enough, you gotta be great. You gotta be smart, and you have to respect the audience. We go to have our emotions manipulated, that's the pact, but under the agreement that you won't placate or pander to us for a cheap thrill.

It's the toughest genre because no one is going to fall for false emotions up there. It's gotta be real and surpising and revealing and it has to speak to ME. That's ME up there.

That's just my humble opinion, thanks for letting me share.


ps- What do I know?


I think between your original post and many of the comments afterward, you've got it covered. As a human woman who watches romantic comedies, I like to see something smart, funny and surprising. One of the things I like so much about the old screwball comedies was that they weren't afraid to be silly, yet did so without being stupid. They had the courage of their screwball convictions! I also like movies with relatable complex human emotions: Amelie, Moonstruck, Trouble in Paradise, Eternal Sunshine, Shop Around the Corner, etc. Smart, funny, surprising, emotionally true! Of course there are as many definitions as what counts as smart, funny, surprising and emotionally true as there are people, so that probably doesn't help narrow things down any. Good question, though.

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