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The Takeaway: Marigold Hotel’s Success Shows Demand High for Movies for Grownups

By now you’ve probably heard of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the British retirees in India movie starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith (both 77), Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. What you may not know is that the film, which cost about $10 million to make, has ticket sales approaching $100 million since opening earlier this month. “Hollywood pays attention” anytime smaller movies gross big, the New York Times’ Brooks Barnes notes.

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But jaws really drop when a movie starring actors in their 70s and aimed at people over 50 pulls off that trick. Wait. Stop. Older people will go to the movies if we give them something to watch besides superheroes and special effects?

Indeed! (But you knew that already, too.) When you make movies that give talented older actors something to work with-movies that aren’t aimed mostly at teenage boys (or 20-something boys, or 30-something boys)-you’ll attract older audiences. Yet this is a segment that’s often overlooked by movie producers and studios. Some say it’s because older people don’t see movies:

Moviegoers under 50 (an age range that includes about 67 percent of the United States) bought 77 percent of the tickets last year, compared with 23 percent for those over 50 (33 percent of the population), according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

But perhaps that’s a better reflection of the supply than the demand. “Younger audiences are more willing to sit through the sequels and remakes the movie studios like to churn out to reduce risk,” said Doug Stone, president of Fox Searchlight, which made Marigold. “If you’re in your 40s or 50s or beyond, you’ve seen a lot of movies in your lifetime and want something that you haven’t seen before.”

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Photo: Ishika Mohan/TM and Fox Searchlight Pictures/Everett Collection