January 24, 2016

Movie and TV diversity sells

After the #OscarsSoWhite announcement for 2016, Hollywood once again considered its failure to diversify.

In Hollywood, a major disconnect between economic interests and business practices

Study by UCLA Bunche Center finds that women and minorities are still underrepresented among actors, directors and executives

By Eric Greene
The report reveals a dramatic disconnect between the reality of America and the Hollywood dream factory. It found that although films and TV shows with casts that reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to succeed at the box office or in the Nielsen ratings, minorities and women continue to be severely underrepresented as directors, show creators, writers and lead actors.

For example, although women make up a little more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, only 6.3 percent of the films in the study were directed by women, and only 17 percent of film studio senior management were women. Not a single film studio CEO was a woman during the period studied in the report.

Similarly, while racial minorities are approximately 40 percent of the population, racial minorities directed just 17.8 percent of theatrical films in 2013 and represented only 8 percent of film studio senior management. Only one person of color was a film studio CEO.

The report also reveals that more than half of “frequent moviegoers”—a group that buys half of all domestic movie tickets—are minorities, suggesting that the industry’s hiring practices are out of sync with its economic interests.

“What we’re finding is that audiences want diverse content,” Hunt said. “They want diverse content created by diverse talent. So the industry would increase its odds of success if there was more diversity in the room.”
When will Hollywood figure out that diversity sells?

Panel discusses findings of UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report

By Sarah Rothbard/Zocalo
Hunt, who wrote the report with Ana Christina Ramon, also with the Bunche center, said that he was not surprised by most of this year’s findings, which came from analyzing 200 films and more than 1,100 television shows released in the 2012-13 season. Film directors, writers and actors remain overwhelmingly white and male; TV is more diverse, but both nonwhites and women remain vastly underrepresented.

Hunt said that the study’s most interesting finding is that “diversity clearly sells.” More diverse TV shows are more popular than shows that aren’t diverse. And movies with diverse casts did best at the worldwide box office.

So why doesn’t Hollywood follow the money and create more diverse content?

Hunt said that white men have dominated positions behind the camera for many years. In a high-risk industry, they want to feel they have the best chance of succeeding, and so they tend to hire people who look and think like them.
Diverse movies are a huge business. Why doesn’t Hollywood make more?

By Drew HarwellThe industry is ignoring a gold mine. Every year for the past half-decade, the average white American has bought a ticket to fewer films than the average black, Hispanic or Asian moviegoer, industry data shows. Though 37 percent of the U.S. population, minorities bought 46 percent of the $1.2 billion in tickets sold in the United States last year.

Some of the year’s biggest surprises had diverse actors and small budgets but ended up dominating the silver screen. For five straight weeks ending in September, movies with predominately black casts topped the box office, including the Christian drama “War Room,” thriller “The Perfect Guy” and rap biography “Straight Outta Compton,” which has made $200 million on a $28 million budget to become the highest-grossing biopic of all time.

More recently, “Creed,” a “Rocky” spinoff starring Michael B. Jordan and directed by Ryan Coogler—both 20-something black men who led the 2013 critical darling “Fruitvale Station”—has triumphed with $72 million at the box office and one of the best opening weekends in the boxing franchise’s 40-year history.

High-profile hires of actors such as Jordan in “Creed” and John Boyega in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” have remained the exception in a Hollywood that has shown only stuttering progress over the past year in getting more-diverse talent into blockbuster roles.
How Hollywood Keeps Minorities Out

By Dennis RomeroFilms with casts that are 21 to 30 percent minority fared better than movies with any other racial-ethnic mix, earning a median box office take of $160 million, according to Hunt's last UCLA study. Those films also saw the greatest return on investment. With major network TV, "median household ratings peaked" for shows with casts that were 41 to 50 percent minority, the report found.UCLA Releases Scathing Report on Diversity in Film and TV

By Melissa SilversteinJust when you thought it was safe to be hopeful again, here comes another reality check.

The Bunche Center at UCLA has released its annual "Hollywood Diversity Report" to remind us that we're still nowhere near where we should be in terms of gender and racial diversity. Researchers examined 172 theatrical films released in 2011 and 1061 TV shows aired during the 2011-12 season on six broadcast and 62 cable networks, eloquently explaining their reasoning as follows: "When media images are rooted primarily in stereotype, inequality is normalized and is more likely to be reinforced over time through our prejudices and practices."

Here's the crazy--and yet entirely logical and expected--part: Diversity means money. Broadcast comedies and dramas with more diversity get higher ratings. Films with just 21-30% diversity earned a global median box-office total of $160 million, while films with less than 10% diversity made just $68.5 million.
Oscars So White? Or Oscars So Dumb? Discuss.

By Manohla Dargis, Wesley Morris, and A.O. ScottMANOHLA DARGIS I love that so many people are enraged at this year’s whiteout—anyone who yells at the Academy is a friend of mine—but I wish that this anger was being expressed 365 days a year and not when the nominations are announced. As Tony suggested, it’s worth repeating again and again (and again!): The primary reason the Oscars are so white this year and most years is that the movie industry is overwhelmingly white. That’s infuriating, but that’s not shocking, and it sure isn’t news. And if that bothers people, then they need to start complaining loudly and perhaps even begin voting with their dollars. By, say, supporting movies with minorities and women. Because the only way the industry will change is if people give them hell.

WESLEY MORRIS Manohla, wouldn’t you say that’s what happened in the last year and the year before? The audiences paid to see women, films with mostly black actors and racially diverse casts, and paid often: “The Force Awakens,” “Inside Out,” “Furious 7,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Spy,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Trainwreck,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Cinderella,” “Creed,” “Get Hard,” “Sisters,” that second “Divergent” movie and the last “Hunger Games.” There’s demonstrable proof that North America wants to see itself—more of itself—in its entertainment. And the Academy—which is working to add more women, young people and color to its ranks—should want to see more of its ideal self at the Oscars.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Revenant vs. Life of Pi and Diversity Is "An Artistic Necessity."

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