Diverse Audiences Bought Majority of Tickets for Half of Top 10 Films at Box Office, Study Finds

More diverse casts could lead to better box office results, UCLA study suggests

Want to boost your odds of making a Hollywood blockbuster? Hire more minorities, according to a new study spearheaded by UCLA sociologist Darnell Hunt.

After crunching the numbers on hundreds of movies and TV shows, the fifth annual “Hollywood Diversity” report found people of color bought a majority of the tickets for five of the top 10 films in 2016. But representation for minorities is still lagging, according to the study, with less than 14 percent of lead actors being people of color. Women aren’t faring much better, either, with less than a third of leading roles. If movie moguls hire more women and minorities to fill these roles, according to the study, audiences will reward them at the box office.

“Consistent with the findings of earlier reports in this series, new evidence from 2015-16 suggests that America’s increasingly diverse audience prefer diverse film and television content,” the report said.

As it continues to print money, “Black Panther” seems to back up the study’s findings. The movie “smashed all of the Hollywood myths that you can’t have a black lead, that you can’t have a predominantly black cast and [have] the film do well,” Hunt told NPR. He added that “Black Panther” is “an example of what can be done if the industry is true to the nature of the market. But it’s too early to tell if ‘Black Panther’ will change business practices or it’s an outlier. We argue it demonstrates what’s possible beyond standard Hollywood practices.”

TV shows with at least 20 percent minority representation benefited as well, receiving higher social media engagement and better ratings, according to the study. Looking to this TV season, the study said results are “mixed” so far, with minorities increasing their share to 28 percent of lead roles, while women have lost ground compared to previous years.