UCLA Hollywood study: Audiences favor more diversity in movies, TV

Ana-Christina Ramon and Darnell Hunt are shown in 2010 at UCLA. The two wrote a new UCLA study on diversity, "Flipping the Script."
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

The country’s increasingly multicultural audiences are becoming frustrated with seeing films with all-white casts. They are demanding more projects with diverse casts and themes, and Hollywood producers are going to have to adjust if they hope to keep pace with popular tastes.

That’s the conclusion of “Flipping the Script,” a comprehensive report about diversity in the entertainment industry released Wednesday by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American studies.

Darnell Hunt, co-author of the Hollywood Diversity Report and head of the center, said the findings of the study can be summed up in two words: Diversity sells.

“What’s new is that business as usual in the Hollywood industry may soon be unsustainable,” Hunt wrote in the report.

Though white males in plum positions in front of and behind the camera have historically marginalized women and minorities in the creative process, “evidence from this report ... shows clearly that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse content created with the input of diverse talent,” said the report.


The industry has continually resisted the trend, according to the report: “The disconnect between this increasingly obvious fact and the stubborn fact of Hollywood’s race and gender problem poses an interesting conundrum: How can we flip the script?”

The UCLA report arrives at a time when the industry, particularly the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Academy Awards, has come under fire for what many call a lack of inclusion of minorities. Several media outlets and observers pointed to the absence of minority talent in marquee categories at this year’s Oscar ceremonies.

The study is the second in a series of reports examining relationships between diversity and the bottom line in Hollywood. It examined 172 theatrical films released in 2012 and 175 released in 2013, as well as 1,105 TV shows airing during the 2012-2013 season.

Other highlights of the report concluded:

--that minorities will soon become the majority in the U.S. However, people of color posted small to modest gains in several Hollywood employment areas since the last report, and remain underrepresented on every front.

--that compared with minorities, women enjoyed fewer gains in Hollywood than the previous report, and remain underrepresented on every front.

--that white males continue to dominate the executive suite positions from which green-lighting positions are made.

--that 2013 was a “breakout year” for black film, as notable gains for minority-led films were made at the Oscars. For women, however, the year meant continued underrepresentation on most fronts, although they reached parity with men as leads in Oscar-winning films.

--that since the last report, the three dominant talent agencies increased their combined shares of the film directors, film writers, broadcast scripted show creators, broadcast scripted leads and cable scripted leads credited to the theatrical films and television shows released. But despite modest gains in a few areas, minority talent remained underrepresented at every front of the dominant agencies.