Baby boomers fight Hollywood ageism

Many Americans appear to be fed up with Hollywood's obsession with youth and grosses. This summer, audiences seemed to tire of blockbusters, with such highly hyped movies as "XXX" and "Men in Black II" opening big and dropping significantly in subsequent weeks.

Although Hollywood's target audience continues to be teenage boys, recent demographics suggest that the fastest-growing sector of the moviegoing audience is people older than 50. In 1990, young adults ages 16 to 20 made up 20 percent of the audience. In 2000, that number shrank to 17 percent, while the percentage of moviegoers ages 50 to 59 doubled to 10 percent.

This year, audiences will see more older women at the movies, with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn in "The Banger Sisters," Michelle Pfeiffer in "White Oleander" and Patricia Clarkson in "Welcome to Collinwood" and "Far From Heaven."

Plum roles for women older than 40 are so rare that when a meaty one does come along, there is a crush of talent knocking down the door.

Director Nancy Meyers, who revived Diane Keaton's career with her and her former partner Charles Shyer's "Baby Boom" and hit it big two years ago with "What Women Want," is working on a movie with an unlikely premise � a 50-year-old man (played by Jack Nicholson) dumps his twentysomething girlfriend for her mother (Keaton). Meyers said she was inundated with calls from agents pitching their clients for the role that eventually went to Keaton.

"The baby boom generation is getting older and is going to embrace seeing characters who are like them and are sexual and vibrant," Meyers said. "Women my age want to see themselves reflected on the screen. I know that life for us remains interesting."


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