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Hollywood targets 'fan boys' to boost box office

What is a fan boy? And, why is Hollywood catering to them? Wikipedia’s definition: An obsessive fan of a single subject of hobby. Hollywood’s definition: Its most reliable movie-going segment.  By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
/ Source: CNBC

After pushing up the release date for the long awaited "Superman Returns," Warner Brothers is hoping to cash in on one of the most reliable audiences in the movie business – fan boys.

What is a fan boy? And, why is Hollywood catering to them? Wikipedia’s definition: An obsessive fan of a single subject of hobby. Hollywood’s definition: Its most reliable movie-going segment. They’re 35 and under and mostly male. Die-hard fans of comic book heroes and series like "Lord of the Rings" or "Star Wars."

More than any other group, they turn up early and often to theaters, they’ll never wait for the DVD and they’re worth tens of millions of dollars box office opening weekends – especially the first day. Who goes to a weeknight midnight opening? The fan boy! Like "Revenge of the Sith’s" $16.5 million midnight and "Spider-Man’s" first midnight screening, bringing in $7 million.

The hardcore fan boy tracks film production and development on Web sites, like aintitcoolnews.com, following directors like "Superman Returns’" Brian Singer, who made the first two "X-Men" movies and Peter Jackson of "King Kong" and "Lord of the Rings."

“They know there is going to be a constituency that is very very interested, and they can also be very critical”, said Gabriel Snyder, Los Angeles Reporter for Variety. "What's important to Hollywood is that they are presold because people are going to be talking about them months, maybe even years before they come out."

So Warner Brothers is catering to fan boys with inside scoops on the Web site bluetights.com. It’s not just the under-35 group; under-25 viewers are more than half of action films’ opening weekend audience. Catching the first screenings, they can make a movie’s opening.

“The reasons the fan boys are so powerful in Hollywood is because once they're interested in something that can cross over to a more general audience," said Snyder. "And that's the Holy Grail."

Hollywood studios always aim to capture all four main demographics: younger and older men and women. Hence, the heavy romantic sub-plots in "Superman." But, now Hollywood is particularly catering to groups that can deliver a strong opening weekend.

The latest demo: Fan girls. Hollywood targeting a slew of horror flicks at young women.