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In fact, the boomer generation may be the ideal movie audience “because they don’t multitask,” said Yahoo!’s Adams. “They’re not texting and tweeting, they’re just following the story. So we’ll see more releases tailored to their interests.”
Another factor is that people are living longer and more active lives. The image of Grandma in the rocking chair, knitting with a quilt on her lap, has been replaced by Granny in a tennis skirt, buying movie tickets on her mobile device.
“People are staying healthier, and still want to see reflections of themselves on screen,” said Bradley Jacobs, senior entertainment editor for Us Weekly. “They don’t necessarily want to run out and see Kate Hudson or Jennifer Aniston. They want mature, rich storytelling featuring actors who look like they have seen some life.”
Britain, home to many older stars with marquee power in America, might be ahead of the curve — a recent study found that most Britons believe middle age starts at 55 and ends at 70.
Hollywood’s age discrimination is lessening, “but there’s still work to do, especially for women,” said Adam Moore, diversity director for the 165,000-member actors union SAG-AFTRA. Male actors are overrepresented compared with the general population, while women over 40 are underrepresented by half. Women under 40 are close to equal.
The majority of female actors may still tend to enter “forgotten” territory 10 to 20 years before men do, but some top women stars have managed to break through that barrier. In films over the past 10 years, both the number of women hired and the money they made has doubled, Moore said.
Fifty years ago, Bette Davis was only 54 and Joan Crawford 57 when they were reduced to playing camp-horror “crazy old lady” roles like the spinster sisters in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” It’s hard to imagine their counterparts of today, even those a decade older such as Streep, Mirren, Field and Susan Sarandon, having to resort to similar indignities.
As boomers get even older, the trend can only continue. In November, a gran-com called “Last Vegas” will star Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline as oldsters on a holiday bender. Call it the hoary “Hangover.”
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046