Hollywood’s Comedy Queens
27 January, 2011
Hollywood’s Comedy Queens

o Meryl Streep
o Sarah Jessica Parker
o Cameron Diaz
o Katherine Heigl
o Anne Hathaway

There’s an old saying among actors: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Maybe that’s why comedies don’t earn as much at the box office as action films. Going down the list of the top-earning films of 2010, you have to get to No. 13 (“Grown Ups,” starring Adam Sandler) before you get to a non-animated comedy.
And when that comedy stars a woman?

It’s even harder to make big bucks. The highest-grossing comedy last year starring a woman was “Date Night” with Tina Fey, which earned $152 million at the global box office. It was the 28th highest-grossing film in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo, and helped land Fey in 10th place on our Queens of Comedy list.
The upside of female-centric comedies? They don’t cost that much to make. “Date Night” cost an estimated $55 million to produce. Compare that to the 27th-ranked film of 2010, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which cost an estimated $155 million to make. So when a movie like “Date Night” hits, it turns a nice profit for the studio.
To determine which funny women’s films earned the most at the box office over the last five years, we looked at global box office returns compiled by Box Office Mojo and only counted non-animated comedies. You can assume that each film cost less to make than your average comic-book movie.
The winner: Meryl Streep. Over the last five years her comedies have earned $1.3 billion at the box office worldwide.
Streep is, of course, better known for her serious work, which has netted her 16 Oscar nominations, the most of any actor ever.
But lately Streep has taken a turn to the lighter side, and scored some bona fide hits in the bargain. “Mamma Mia,” her highest-grossing movie ever, earned $610 million at the box office worldwide. “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Julie & Julia,” and “It’s Complicated” were also box office hits (though on a more modest scale). For her next act Streep is returning to more serious work with “The Iron Lady,” a biopic about Margaret Thatcher.
Ranking second on our list is Sarah Jessica Parker with $916 million. The “Sex and the City” franchise is a global phenomenon, which helped each of the two films earn more at the international box office than they did domestically. “Sex and the City 2” earned only $95 million in the U.S., but it brought in $193 million overseas.
In third place: Katherine Heigl. Over the last five years her comedies have earned $773 million, despite a string of recent flops like “Killers” and “Life as We Know It.” For a while there Heigl was considered the only woman who could be counted on to open a romantic comedy like “27 Dresses,” which earned $160 million on an estimated budget of $30 million. Her star has fallen somewhat, but she’ll get a chance to prove herself with her next movie: “One for the Money.” Based on the popular Janet Evanovich series of Stephanie Plum novels, success could set her up for a franchise.
“Shrek” star Cameron Diaz ranks fourth with $768 million. You wouldn’t know that Diaz was any kind of a box office draw based on her latest film, “The Green Hornet.” The actress is almost completely absent from the movie’s marketing campaign. She’ll be featured more prominently in her upcoming comedy “Bad Teacher,” which co-stars former beau Justin Timberlake.
Rounding out the top five is Streep’s “Prada” costar Anne Hathaway. Over the last five years her comedies — including “Get Smart” and “Bride Wars” — have earned a total of $727 million at the box office worldwide. Up next for Hathaway is an action role: She’ll play Selina Kyle in the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight Rises.” (Kyle is best known to most comic book fans as her alter ego, Cat Woman.)

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