‘Wonder Woman’ did very good at the weekend box office, signaling new hope for female directors and films starring women

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It was a “Wonder”-ful weekend at the box office.

“Wonder Woman” earned $103.1 million in North America, setting a new record for a female-directed film. With strong word-of-mouth from audiences (CinemaScore, which grades crowd reaction, gave it an A) and positive marks from critics (the film sits at 93 percent “fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes), box office experts are saying Patty Jenkins’ film could wind up with a domestic take of around $300 million.

“Wonder Woman’s” big weekend gave it the third biggest opening of the year, behind “Beauty and the Beast” ($175 million) and “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” ($147 million). It opened a few clicks ahead of April’s “The Fate of the Furious” ($99 million).

In terms of superhero origin stories, “Wonder Woman’s” opening ranks fourth, behind last year’s “Deadpool” ($132.4 million), 2013’s “Man of Steel” ($116.6 million) and 2002’s “Spider-Man” ($114.8 million). “Wonder Woman” out-lassoed the opening weekend of 2008’s “Iron Man” ($98.6 million).

Women made up 53 percent of “Wonder Woman’s” audience, according to tracking numbers. And those supposedly controversial women-only screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse were entirely sold out, according to reports.

The film’s success is being heralded as a major breakthrough for women directors and female-driven films. “Wonder Woman,” which earned $223 million worldwide, is one of several big films this summer with women at the helm — “Beguiled,” directed by Sofia Coppola (who just won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, the first woman to do so in 56 years), opens later this month, and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” hits screens in August.

The lessons to be learned from “Wonder Woman’s” success shouldn’t fall entirely on gender lines. “Wonder Woman” is a smart, thoughtful film that cares about its characters and takes its time setting its story in motion, which is more than can be said for many superhero films.

Wonder Woman herself —  played by 32-year-old Israeli actress Gal Gadot — is kind and compassionate and curious about the world around her. The film lets her explore her surroundings and isn’t preoccupied with loud action set pieces. If those things can be attributed to a woman’s touch, then so be it. But just as much it’s a human approach, where so many superhero outings are driven by corporate interests, studio groupthink and marketing decisions.

“Wonder Woman” is somehow the first big summer studio tentpole film to be directed by a woman. Jenkins had previously helmed just one film, 2003’s “Monster,” which earned star Charlize Theron a Best Actress Academy Award. Jenkins’ hiring was seen as a “gamble” in the eyes of some — Twitter was quick to hop on the Hollywood Reporter last week for inferring Jenkins was a “risk” — but it’s a gamble that is paying off.

The effects won’t be felt immediately. Because of the enormity of Hollywood productions, it can take years for change to be felt, but a change is finally coming.

And frankly, it’s about time.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

Twitter: @grahamorama

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