Women fall for Magic Mike's spell

It is the dirty little secret filling Australian cinemas. Magic Mike - a film about male strippers - has performed well above expectations at the box office, with women of all ages embracing the lusty flick.

The film started out with low expectations but has emerged as a word-of-mouth hit among women and reached the No. 2 spot behind The Dark Night Rises, despite being shown on half as many screens.

The film, with its sex and multiple stripping scenes, follows the the widely talked-about success of the sexually explicit novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

''I think it possibly is a bawdy phase, a kind of unleashing of fun and desire,'' Fiona Giles, from Sydney University, says. ''And the pleasure of sharing that with girlfriends.''

In its first week, to August 1, Magic Mike had taken $5.3 million at the Australian box office. In the same time, the film Hysteria, about the origins of the vibrator, took $253,691.

The director of marketing at Roadshow, Phil Oneile, credits online chatter between women as one of the reasons for the film's success.

Some Sydney cinemas have experienced an influx of female audiences on traditionally quiet nights. Egidio Rodrigues, manager of the Randwick Ritz, said more than 100 women came to see the film on Wednesday night. ''For us, that is unheard of. I think that film beat the admissions for Batman, [which had] twice as many sessions.''

Nikki Key was not coy about why she showed up at the Ritz yesterday. "Fifty Shades of Grey - that's why I've come out,'' she said. But she's here to see Magic Mike. Well, yes. ''I think all the women are just getting a little hot under the collar."

For 32-year-old Olivia Evans, who is nine months' pregnant, she was hoping to squeeze in one last girly outing before giving birth. "It might bring on the labour,'' she said.

The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh, stars Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey and explores the story of a group of male strippers in Tampa, Florida.

Dr Giles, who lectures in gender and cultural studies, describes women's eagerness to step out to watch the film publicly with friends as a step in the right direction for women's sexuality. It furthers a trend created by Sex And The City, she says.

''It's fascinating. I figured it would be popular but it's surprising that it's being interpreted as permission to publicly express a kind of larrikinism around sexuality.

''At least for contemporary culture, hen's nights have been when women unleash this kind of rampant sexual desire in public, with the facilitation of the stripper or the man who shows up,'' she added. ''Having a film that plays with those ideas and explores them in further detail … women are being invited to enjoy this aspect of voyeurism more openly. I think it's quite a good thing.''

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