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Study shows moviegoers prefer films with diverse casts, content

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As part of its ongoing series of analyses of diversity in the entertainment industry, a new UCLA study  found that moviegoers increasingly prefer films with diverse casts and narratives. 

The annual Hollywood Diversity Report found that in 2020, “films with casts that were from 41% to 50% percent minority enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts.” 

By contrast, “films with casts that were less than 11% minority were the poorest [box office] performers.”

What’s more, the researchers found, people of color accounted for “the majority of opening weekend, domestic ticket sales for six of the top 10 films released in theaters.”

The report also detailed how devastating the pandemic has been to Hollywood’s bottom line, noting the global box office fell 72% between 2019 and 2020, from $42.3 billion to just $12 billion in the pandemic year.

But even as streaming filled the need for entertainment, more diverse content saw success. “Among the large number of top films released via streaming platforms in 2020,” the report noted, “ratings for White, Black, Latinx and Asian households and viewers 18-49 were all highest for films featuring casts that were from 21 percent to 30 percent minority.”

The report also heralded the “tremendous progress” POCs have made in front of the camera: “People of color accounted for 39.7% of the leads in top films for 2020” — what the researchers noted was “the highest share on record.”

By comparison, that number was just 10.5% in 2011; in 2019 it was 27.6%.  

That said, there’s still work to be done: the report noted that only 2.5 out of 10 film directors are people of color. What’s more, at the 2019 Oscars, films that had a cast that was “more than 30% minority were shut out from winning an award.”

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