It is a decades-long trend,” actress Geena Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, said at a luncheon panel on the subject. “We want to believe that things are getting better. But the evidence shows that it’s not.” The conventional wisdom is that “women will watch men but men won’t watch women…It’s not true.” Director Paul Feig said that he faced “enormous” pressure to have his film Bridesmaids succeed. Casting women in lead roles “was always shut down so quickly. ‘We can’t have a woman as a lead.’ It was almost a rule…I was terrified.” Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson says the problem is exacerbated by popular culture. She cited a reader survey by the blog SFGate that deemed Anne Hathaway as the year’s “Most Annoying Celebrity” to illustrate that misogyny is “a sport in the media.” She adds that women have been shortchanged by “franchise fever” which has “squeezed out the variety of movies that are made” and by efforts to reach boys with PG movies. The trends are bad for business says Regal Cinemas CEO Amy Miles. “Our customers were wildly excited about Bridesmaids,” she said adding that “they’ll also be there for The Heat” — the upcoming buddy movie starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. How should studios address the problem? Feig says execs need to develop more female stars. “Studios should want to take a chance…by casting women in great roles and letting them do what they do.” Panelists tread lightly when asked whether the upcoming movie from the book Fifty Shades Of Grey will help the cause. “There are many women who love that book,” Jacobson says. “Is it good for women or not? I’ll leave that to another panel.”

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