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Movies Starring Women Outperform Male-Led Titles at Box Office, Study Finds

Female-led movies outperformed male-led titles at the worldwide box office during the 2014-17 period, a study released Tuesday showed.

Creative Artists Agency and technology company Shift7 said that the analysis found that female-led films outperformed male-led films at all budget levels. The study grew out of the Time’s Up movement in a collaboration aiming to improve the portrayal of women in media and entertainment.

The group is led by producer and former Sony Pictures Chairman Amy Pascal, Shift7 CEO  Megan Smith and producer Liza Chasin. It includes CAA Agent Alexandra Trustman and Geena Davis.

“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” said Pascal. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”

The analysis examined 350 top grossing films released between 2014 – 2017, categorized into five budget levels: under $10 million, $10 million – $30 million, $30 million – $50 million, $50 million – $100 million, and over $100 million. To be characterized as female-led, women had to be listed as the lead actor by being listed first in billing blocks, press notes, or distributor-issued final credits.

The report also noted that every film that surpassed $1 billion in global box office also passed the Bechdel Test, in which (1) the film has to have at least two women in it; (2) the two women speak to one another in the film; and (3) they speak about something other than a man.

“The Bechdel Test is a low bar to clear, and it’s surprising how many movies don’t clear it,” said Chasin.  “Understandably, the studios think about the bottom line, so it’s great to see a growing body of data that should make it easier for executives to make more inclusive decisions.”

Davis, who founded and chairs the research organization The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, said the report confirms her long-held beliefs.

“I started commissioning data back in 2004, realizing there is so much unconscious bias in this space,” she said. “The truth is that seeing women and girls on screen is not only good for everyone – especially our children – it’s also good entertainment and good business.

“Wonder Woman,” starring Gal Gadot, was one of the top female-led movies during the survey period with $821 million in worldwide box office. The sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984,” has been set for a 2020 release.

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