Hollywood’s Diversity Problem Potentially Costs Industry Billions (Study)

Oscars Diversity Controversy
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Hollywood’s failure to present more diverse casts in movies and television is potentially costing the industry billions of dollars, according to a new report issued by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.

The report, “2016 Hollywood Diversity Report: Business as Usual?,” showed that films and television shows with casts that roughly reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity posted the highest box office and ratings numbers on average.

“Yet the industry’s homogenous corps of decision makers made relatively few of these types of diverse projects, potentially leaving billions in revenue on the table,” said Dr. Darnell Hunt, chairman of the center.

The report is the third in three years from Hunt. It reveals that the nation consisted nearly 40% of minorities in 2014 — the last year examined — and will only become increasingly so in the coming years, with a majority minority by 2043.

“Absent some significant change in Hollywood’s business-as-usual practices, the disconnect documented in earlier reports in this series will only widen,” he said.

The report was published Thursday — three days after a blistering report scolding Hollywood for being a “straight, white boys’ club,” according to the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  That report examined 109 movies and 306 broadcast, cable and digital series, and found that a third of speaking characters were female, less than 30% were from minority groups and a mere 2% were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.


Straight Outta Compton

Diverse Films Perform Better at Global Box Office, Study Says

The two research reports are being released the week of the 88th Academy Awards — which has generated widespread complaints that people of color were overlooked in the major acting and directing categories when nominations were announced on Jan. 14.

“The #OscarsSoWhite uproar is but a contemporary expression of the longstanding frustration among many with business as usual at the film Academy,” Hunt wrote in the report.

“Members of the film and television academies each year come together in elaborate ceremonies to celebrate excellence in their respective fields. But as the previous reports in this series have documented, the accolades bestowed are typically rather short on meaningful recognition of talent of color or of the kinds of stories that are more likely to emanate from their communities. Instead, the people and projects recognized are usually just awkward reflections of an industry and Academy memberships that are overwhelming white and male.”

The UCLA report examines patterns in 2014 films and in television during the 2013-14 season.

“In 2014, people of color purchased 46% of all movie tickets sold in the United States,” the report said. “Latinos were particularly well represented among minority ticket buyers. Though the group constituted only about 18% of the U.S. population in 2014, they accounted for 25% of all frequent moviegoers.”

The research showed  minorities claimed 12.9% of the lead roles in the 163 films examined for 2014, down from 16.7%  in 2013 and 15.1%  in 2012.

“Because minorities collectively accounted for 37.9% of the U.S. population in 2014, they were underrepresented by a factor of nearly 3 to 1 among lead roles in the films examined for that year,” Hunt wrote. “Still, this was an improvement over minorities’ share of lead film roles in 2011 (10.5%), which corresponded to underrepresentation by a factor of nearly 4 to 1.”

Films with minority leads in 2014 include “The Equalizer,” “Ride Along,” “Annie,”  “Think Like a Man Too” and “Selma.”

The report also found that women claimed the lead roles in only 25.8% of the 163 top films examined for 2014.

“This figure is a bit lower than the share the group claimed in 2012 (30.8%) but very similar to the figures it posted in 2011 (25.6%) and 2013 (26.4%),” it said. “Because women constitute slightly more than half of the U.S. population, they were underrepresented by a factor of about 2 to 1 among leads for the films examined in 2014.”

Hunt called the the ongoing under-representation a “multi-dimensional” problem that will require interventions on every front.

“But meaningful interventions have been slow to emerge because of a latent conflict between individual and institutional interests,” he added.

“That is, the white males who dominate positions of power in this lucrative yet risky industry are motivated to make what they perceive are safe choices that will serve their own personal interests. Rather than share the power to develop and greenlight projects with others who look more like the emerging America, they continue to produce more of the same, denying increasingly diverse audiences the content they crave. Institutional interests thus suffer as billions are left on the table.”

Hunt also said Hollywood’s business-as-usual model may soon be unsustainable.

“At nearly 40% of the nation’s population and growing, people of color are overrepresented among Hollywood’s audiences,” the report said.

“Indeed, most of the movie tickets for four of the top 10 films in 2014 were purchased by people of color. Similarly, viewer ratings and social-media engagement demonstrate that people of color now make up arguably the most important segment of the television audience. But these audience realities seem oblivious to Hollywood industry powerbrokers. The very people best situated to help them connect with today’s (and tomorrow’s) audiences are hardly at the table.”

Hunt acknowledged the recent moves by AMPAS to boost diversity in its membership and ABC’s naming of Channing  Dungey as the first African-American woman to head a network division.

“Only time will tell if these important developments define the leading edge of a long-overdue, new normal for the Hollywood industry,” he added.

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  1. handsomerandyblackladdiebrad1953 says:

    flosse,while your racist like is handing the U.S. to Trump and the rest of the corrupt scum because you want to be played by the 0.000001% WHO STEAL AS MUCH IF NOT MORE FROM YOU THAN WE PEOPLE OF COLOUR,the intelligent want to see Hollywood reflect the TOTAL U.S.,not just the white,straight good ol’ boys!!!!!

  2. flosse says:

    This absolutely stupid, biased and blantantly racist discussion where liberals and blacks want to force their agenda down my throat makes me sick!

    “In 2014, people of color purchased 46% of all movie tickets sold in the United States,” the report said. “Latinos were particularly well represented among minority ticket buyers. Though the group constituted only about 18% of the U.S. population in 2014, they accounted for 25% of all frequent moviegoers.”

    Doesn’t that mean latinos and blacks do like to go to “white” movies? Surely, the percentage does not come from the all-black movies such as Think Like A Man or the various Madeas. All black movies usually do between 50 and 90 million dollars. That is a far cry from the usual annual blockbusters, with 90 million, you usually do not break into the Top 30 of any given year in the last decade.

    It gets really sad when you look at global grosses for the above mentioned movies, Madea does not do any business overseas, the only way to make a profit is to produce cheaply. It does not make much sense for Hollywood to do all-black movies or movies with minority leads such as “The Equalizer,” “Ride Along,” “Annie,” “Think Like a Man Too” and “Selma.” Ride Along did $134m in the US, $19m in foreign markets. Even the “Equalizer” (starring Denzel Washington in an originally WHITE role) did more stateside ($101m) then abroad ($90m). BTW: Ride Along, Annie and Think like a Man Too are utter crap, Selma is more a TV-movie and Equalizer is a routine thriller with lots of violence, none of them deserving a lot of recognition during award season.

    Audiences (not just in America) go to the movies to see dinosaurs eat people, Jedis fight the New Order, the Avengers pummeling robots and saving the world. they want to see Jennifer Lawrence leading a revolution, Pixar showing the emotions of a teenager, Minions looking for an evil master to follow, Daniel Craig as Bond or Matt Damon stranded on Mars. Would they flock to the cinemas, if these movies included black leads? Don Cheadle was already stranded on Mars, hardly anybody took notice.

    Except for Denzel Washington there is hardly any black star with global appeal. Will Smith had some successes, but nearly as many misses. Wesley Snipes looked like a star for some time, now he stars in Bulgarian action movies…

  3. Jonathan Lee says:

    And so it happened… Blacks, whites and all the colors you can imagine transformed the defense of diversity in a a percentage question. It is the childish way of dealing with a most complex situation.
    As a matter of fact, anyone who thinks, for instance, that a movie like “Selma” is just a very normal TVmovie, not very imaginative in the department of narrative, is bound to be accused of racism… My point of view is just ONE point of view, but that is what I sincerely think — and I am sorry if I offend a lot of people, but I don’t see it as a colored question.
    Next step: almost everybody is going to forget how is possible to understand and discuss a lot of the history of racism THROUGH more than 100 years of American cinema. And when that is forgotten, cinema will become a mere statistic — maybe a lot of blacks, whites and all the colors will be happier, but they managed to banalize memory and, in the end, kill the love of cinema.

    • Anthony says:

      Dude, cinema is not going to die. That’s really over-sensationalizing the matter greatly. This whole diversity thing with the Academy Awards has been taken way out of context from people with narrow-minded thinking.

  4. ... says:

    Diversity doesn’t just mean black people. I wonder if a Concussion or Beasts of No Nation had gotten nominated, would we be having this conversation?

  5. Tony says:

    Hollywood doesn’t understand the dialogue. Yes, a small percentage of minority filmmakers are saying they want an all (-race of your choice-) film now and then because sometimes the story requires that, isn’t that how most of the major Hollywood filmmakers regard their projects? There is the other percentage of minority filmmakers that are saying: (1) This film of ours will feature a minority in the lead and supporting roles but they won’t be the only characters on film. (2) When considering supporting characters that are not stereotypically race based search out talent agencies, stage and screen guilds for minority actors/actresses that can add originality to the role. The talent is out there it just needs the opportunity to participate and create. If Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson, etcetera can portray other races so can our pool of talent. Anthony Quinn for example played many cultures. The reality of the world is that co-existence is the human story.

  6. Mike M says:

    Make any great movie and I will go and see it. But that’s just me.

    Hunt says “That is, the white males who dominate positions of power in this lucrative yet risky industry are motivated to make what they perceive are safe choices that will serve their own personal interests.”

    Well their own interests yes true, but only directly related to the movie studio companies making each film. If the film does well they do well directly proportional to the studio, so him targeting individuals like this is totally irrelevant.

    The key words are “lucrative yet risky”. As many films FAIL TO MAKE PROFIT as make ANY profit these days. It is a business, and the risks are far lower when ensuring your film has at least SOME appeal to a white audience. If 100% of minority / female targeted (and talented) films were all that made money, or EVEN what made the MOST money, then they would be almost all that existed. These “white men” would change to them over night.

    Is that morally right? No. Is business about being morally right? No.

    How do you fix it? It self corrects when the population is such that it is no longer economical not to make films that target different audiences because they are now the ones driving the profit that can be made at the least risk.

    Right or wrong this is simply supply and demand economics and it always will be. They can give more awards to minorities, and the passionate moral issues can be screamed at the top of rooftops, but neither will ever make any real difference here.

  7. Ben says:

    What I think is so lost in all this madness is the fact that film and TV execs still think that *star power is what attracts people to stories. It’s not. Internationally, sometimes, but definitely not here. No one goes to the movies or watches a show just because Tom Cruise is in it. No, if the story looks good and is interesting, no one gives a shit who is in it. The whole having a star attached thing is old hat. Guardians of the Galaxy did fantastic overseas. You think they knew who the fuck the guy was playing Starlord? No. Arguably the most famous of them all (Vin Diesel) wasn’t even in the fucking thing, and it killed. People just want to see good stuff, and they don’t care what the person in front of or behind the camera looks like giving it to them, as long as it’s just that.

    • Anthony says:

      Hold on there mate as you are without question factually misguided in what you are saying in many regards. Yes, story is a HUGE part in a film’s success but you completely discrediting “star power” of an actor/director or who’s is rather ill-advised greatly. Certain actors do bring an appeal to a film no matter what. There are many well-known filmmakers (Spielberg, Nolan, Cameron, Scorsese, Coen brothers, & so forth) who draw audiences in based on who they are alone. Star power still plays a key part to a certain extent in giving a film another piece of credibility but does “star power” sell a film completely nowadays? No, but star power doesn’t hurt either.

      By you saying “no one” (do you know everyone?) goes to watch Tom Cruise because he’s in it? That’s factually wrong & misguided on your part. Cruise has 18 films that have gone over $100 million mark in one weekend. That is more then any other modern actor working today but Cruise historically is look upon as one of the best action stars in cinematic history.

      Another example of star power, a recent study found that one of the main reasons “The Revenant” did so strongly (Box-Office wise) was because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s star power alone. A studied polling showed over 30% of audiences who went to see “The Revenant” went because of sole reason of DiCaprio being in it.

      As for “Guardians of the Galaxy”, that film did well because it’s a superhero film made from Disney/Marvel which do well in the box-office currently. It also helped that the film garnered critical appeal & strong word-of-the-mouth from audiences. Yes, people do know Chris Pratt is (who did play Star Lord) & for those who didn’t? Do now. Also, Vin Diesel wasn’t the biggest star power in that group at the time as Bradley Cooper is the bigger name.

  8. Nanny Mo says:

    Nonsense! And B.S. If the movies stop making money, the industry dies and frankly with all these nonsense it might be time to stop going to the modern movies and just re-watch one of the thousands of DVDs for free at the library. That would shut up the racist Academy leaders and their forcing Oscars on people due to skin color!

    • Anthony says:

      What? Your comment is all over the place. First off, the Academy isn’t racist & if you think that? Then you are an idiot. The Academy is forcing their Oscars on people due to skin color? To start, the Academy isn’t forcing their Oscars on anyone due to skin color. Do you even grasp what’s going on? Because from your statement, you clearly don’t. I’m beginning to wonder if you even know who & what the Academy is because your whole statement makes little sense.

  9. James says:

    First of all, a study which only looks at 109 movies when the annual number of films released last year was over 600 doesn’t represent anything to me. But, yes, there is a problem. I would also add that there are a number of black/latino films that are made outside of the studio system that do business but, because they also don’t draw the white audience, they don’t get the respect that they deserve. And, that’s really the question. Will white audiences show up to see these stories or are you just making money with one audience but losing the established ones? Straight out of Compton did well because the music of the group was something both black and white audiences could get behind. Creed was a Rocky sequel and Beast of No Nation didn’t have a real theatrical release and Idris Elba isn’t quite there box office draw amongst white audiences yet.

  10. Lisa says:

    Yes, it’s cost billions to the White Man! Now he’s caught between a rock and a hard place, since he has to hire minorities and women or lose money. Hmmmm. I think he’ll start hiring even if it means his own demise. That’s how greedy he is.

  11. jim says:

    Hollywood is a money making business. If a star puts the asses in the seats they will be hired to make bigger movies. If more ethnically diverse movies are making money do you not think thats were hollywood would go? The whole idea of minorities being kept out of movies because of race is more about money. Also small budget films seem to be bombing lately my guess is its the netflix effect . why see a film in theatre when it will be on netflix in a few months. Someone complained and hollywood took the bait.

  12. Spider says:

    Yes, lack of Latinos in prominent, star-making films is costing Billions. There is a huge Latino market that is hungry for rich, powerful relatable stories!! Get with it, Hollywood!

  13. Hollywood has resources to measure what audiences want in a more ethnically diverse market. Hollywood is notorious for being behind on technology and diversity. There is a small number of aging leaders who are living in another generation. The auto industry learned similar lessons when they found themselves flirting with collapse. The US has a larger Hispanic audience today and a large African American and Asian population. This is simply a mindset in a good old boy network. If they need to suffer more down trends at the box office, there are alternative sources of entertainment. Hollywood is still trying to figure out how to market in a social media environment.

    • Anthony says:

      You are rather misguided in certain respects. First off, Hollywood has always been behind on technology? No, that’s not correct in certain regards. Actually, Hollywood is typically in-line on the technology factor in many cases & some cases, they been ahead.

      Secondly, yes, the U.S. has a larger Hispanic population which is currently at 17% but that demographic isn’t no longer that fastest growing anymore & in certain respects it’s declining. African American population isn’t growing at all as their population is at 12% & it’s been that way for the past few decades & it’s not increasing either in the future. The Asian population is growing & is currently the fastest growing demographic but it’s only at 5% of the population. As for the Caucasian population, they actually saw an increase in birth rates over the past 2 years while all the other ethnic groups have seen a decline. Hispanics alone saw 50% decline last year alone. African Americans saw a decline of 2% as well for the first time in years. People who look to the U.S. Census for U.S. demographic numbers & such is ill-advised as that system is historically inaccurate in their predictions & forecasts.

      Lastly, Hollywood is hurting in the box-office? No, they are not technically. The box-office last year made a record breaking $11.5 billion dollars.The industry isn’t hurting overall. If anything, Hollywood maybe missing out on making more if they diverse bit more in their casting.

    • Lisa says:

      The truth is the white male population has never really been oppressed. African Americans have been and still are being oppressed. Hispanics have been and are being oppressed. Even Asians have been oppressed in North American society – they, along with the early African Americans, built the early locomotive system in North America. Of course, women have been and still are being oppressed.
      Now, Asian film production is excelling, so much so that the white culture is trying to tap into that economy. Frankly, I think the Asians are ‘giving it up’ way too quickly.

      • Anthony says:

        White male population has never really been oppressed? That’s ignorant & wrong but I digress. Asians & African Americans built the locomotive system? WTF? No, they didn’t! The whites built the locomotive system technically. African Americans & Asians were just brought on to assist in doing the labor work but were instructed & taught by the whites on how to do it. The white culture technically built it overall since it was their creation.

        Asian film production is excelling? Yes, to an extent but mainly because the film exhibition market in Asia is growing since the film industry is now a globalization corporation. It’s not just Asia though, it’s Europe, Central America, India, Australia, New Zealand, & so forth that are also growing in the same respects. Asia wants Hollywood in their economy just like the others. The white culture is tapping into because it’s good for business for everyone. Asians are not “giving it up”, they are capitalizing in their growth. It’s called smart business.

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