Sandra Bullock’s box office take over the last five years is as good or better than most male leads. The same can be said of Melissa McCarthy, who also has the attention of about 10 million viewers a week on Mike and Molly when she’s not on the big screen. Both of them have been integral to the marketing and promotion of their films, so it’s clearly not that moviegoers won’t watch a blockbuster with a woman in the lead.
But in very specific terms, Gravity was marketed as a co-headlining movie from Bullock and George Clooney, but anyone who saw it knows that it was Bullock’s film. Clooney was perceived as being necessary to market the movie in spite of the fact that since 2008, his movies have generated about $634 million total at the domestic box office, compared to Bullock’s $891 million. During that time, Clooney made nine films to Bullock’s six, meaning that the per-film average is even more heavily skewed in Bullock’s favor.
During that time, the total budget for Clooney’s films came to a minimum of $307 million and the budget for Bullocks clocked in at $214 million. That means that for every dollar spent producing a George Clooney film, the studio saw $2.07 back. That isn’t half bad, really. You know what it is half of? The $4.15 they saw on every Sandra Bullock dollar they spent during the same five-year period. Each of them had a couple of low-budget indie films and a couple of failures during the five-year period, but Clooney–the name Warner Bros. was convinced was necessary to promote the film–averaged just over $70 million per film during that period while Bullock averaged upwards of $148 million."