The success of blockbusters with diverse casts is beginning to persuade Hollywood to spotlight more women and minorities, but the industry still has a long way to go.
UCLA released its latest Hollywood diversity report early Thursday, which showed that despite gains in front of and behind the camera, women and minorities remain underrepresented in film and television. The study also included evidence that suggests audiences tend to prefer movies and TV shows that feature relatively diverse casts.
The study found that women and minorities were underrepresented in all 12 categories of industry employment that were examined.
Written by Darnell Hunt, Ana-Christina Ramón and Michael Tran, UCLA’s “Hollywood Diversity Report 2019” examined 167 films released in 2017, as well as 1,316 television shows that aired or were available to stream during the 2016-17 season. The study is the sixth in an annual series that looks at the relationships between diversity and the bottom line in the entertainment industry.
The study found that — despite representing nearly 40% of the U.S. population — people of color made up just 19.8% of film leads, 21.5% of broadcast scripted leads, 21.3% of cable scripted leads and 21.3% of digital scripted leads.
Women, who constitute slightly more than half the U.S. population, made up 32.9% of film leads, 39.7% of broadcast scripted leads, 43.1% of cable scripted leads and 42.8% of digital scripted leads.
And while the study pointed out highlights such as “Atlanta’s” historic Emmy win, it also noted that despite some improvements, “the kind of structural change necessary … simply has not occurred in the film sector.”
The authors, however, pointed to shifts in the television industry as a possible new standard for improving diversity in the industry.
Among the data researchers reviewed were the race and gender of lead actors, show creators, writers and directors as well as the overall diversity of a project’s cast. They also considered global and domestic box office, viewer and social media ratings, Oscar and Emmy awards, genre, show locations, international distribution and the demographics of ticket buyers.
As in previous years, the latest report found that films with a relatively diverse cast fared better at the global box office. Among 2017’s movies — such as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “The Fate of the Furious,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Coco” — those that featured a cast made up of 31% to 40% minorities posted the highest median box-office numbers; meanwhile, those with fewer than 11% minority cast members had the lowest.
Over the course of the series, researchers have found that films with at least a 20% minority cast have performed the strongest at the global box office.
Compared with last year’s report, people of color posted gains relative to their white counterparts in eight of the key employment categories: film leads, broadcast scripted leads, cable scripted leads, digital scripted leads, broadcast reality and other leads, cable reality and other leads, broadcast scripted show creators, and cable scripted show creators. They held their ground among film directors, film writers and digital scripted show creators, and lost ground among digital reality and other leads.
Women posted gains in seven of the employment categories relative to their male counterparts, including film directors. They also saw improvement among film leads, broadcast scripted leads, broadcast reality and other leads, cable reality and other leads, cable scripted show creators, and digital scripted show creators.
However, they fell behind on three fronts (film writers, cable scripted leads, and digital reality and other leads) while holding their ground in the remaining two areas (digital scripted leads and broadcast scripted show creators).