© 2024 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Report: Audiences demand diversity in films, Hollywood can do more

Ahead of Hollywood's biggest night, UCLA published a new study Thursday looking at diversity within the film industry.

It found people of color making gains in the major categories in 2023 — film leads, total actors, directors and writers. However, women suffered losses in the acting and writing categories. Both groups remain underrepresented in all major employment categories, according to the study.

Hollywood was in a tough spot in 2023, still recovering from the pandemic and undergoing strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. But movies such as Barbie and The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes helped bolster box offices, according to the study, which examined global and domestic earnings of theatrically released movies.

The study found that in 2023, films with casts that were 31 to 40 percent people of color earned the highest median global box office receipts, while films with casts that were 11 percent people of color were the poorest performers. The study also found that female moviegoers bought the majority of opening weekend domestic tickets for three of the top 10 movies in 2023.

The study noted that franchise films posted the highest earnings of their film series when they embraced more diversity. The examples included movies such as Creed 3, Scream 6, and John Wick: Chapter 4, which featured lead actors of color and casts with 50 percent or more actors of color.

"Films that embrace diversity are more likely to resonate with audiences, leading to box-office success and ultimately long-term sustainability for the industry," wrote Darnell Hunt in a statement. Hunt is the UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, and co-founder of the report.

Behind the scenes, representation for lead actors, total actors, directors, and writers of color hit 11-year highs. Also, top films featuring more than 50 percent cast diversity outnumbered less diverse films. But the study cautions that these numbers are likely a reflection of decisions made in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. "The question is if this upward trend of diversity will continue," Hunt wrote.

Women did not make any gains in the top Hollywood jobs in 2023, according to the study. The only category where they remained stagnant was in directing, where 1.5 out of 10 theatrical film directors were women. Films directed by white women were found most likely to have the smallest budgets, despite the huge success of Barbie, which made over $1.4 billion globally.

While this study only examined theatrical releases, a separate study looking at the streaming industry is set to come out later this year.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.