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'Annabelle,' 'Gone Girl' attract large female audiences

'Annabelle,' 'Gone Girl' attract large female audiences
The actresses in "Gone Girl" include, foreground from left, Kim Dickens, Rosamund Pike and Carrie Coon, joined by author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn in back. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

David Fincher's thriller "Gone Girl" and low-budget horror "Annabelle" have more than just the R rating in common.

The two films, which went neck and neck for the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend, found common ground among female audiences.

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Based on the popular novel by Gillian Flynn, Fincher's film follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) after his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), goes missing on their fifth anniversary. As secrets of their marriage unfold, police, media and community members try to determine whether Nick killed his wife.

The film drew a 60% female audience, a testament to its female cast, including Pike, Kim Dickens as Det. Boney and Carrie Coon as Nick's twin.

With summer hits such as "Lucy," "Maleficent" and "The Fault in Our Stars," the strength of female audiences shouldn't come as a shock.

Disney's "Maleficent," starring Angelina Jolie, was the summer's third-highest-grossing movie. It racked up about $240 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada.

"'Maleficent' ends up being that proof that a female-driven story can draw all segments of the population," Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios' executive vice president of theatrical distribution, told The Times in September.

Similarly, "The Fault in Our Stars," based on John Green's bestselling young adult novel, opened to $48.2 million in the U.S. and Canada when it was released in June. It went on to gross about $124.9 million at the box office. The bulk of its audience was female and under 25.

"Lucy," which follows a party girl turned superhuman with enhanced abilities (Scarlett Johansson), launched with $44 million in July. It reeled in $125.8 million overall.

"At this point we shouldn't even have to try to make a point about how important the female audience is," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. "It should be self-evident."

Dergarabedian said "Gone Girl" is not the "typical movie that would appeal to females" such as a romantic comedy, young adult book adaptation or action film with a female central character.

"But typical rules don't apply anymore at the box office," he added.

The same reasoning could be applied to New Line's "Annabelle."

The gender breakdown for the film was fairly balanced, with female moviegoers making up 51% of the audience.

The Warner Bros. horror film follows the haunted doll from last summer's hit "The Conjuring."

"For years it's been obvious that women love horror movies but for some reason there's a stereotype that women wouldn't like them," Dergarabedian added. "Women helped drive 'Anabelle' to big numbers ... proving any audience can be found for films if they are properly marketed."

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

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