HomeAsian AmericansIn Hollywood, the box office success encourages inclusion & diversity

In Hollywood, the box office success encourages inclusion & diversity

Views from the Edge

A new report tying movie-going audiences with film content concludes: Representation matters.

Hollywood decision-makers are finally coming around to the idea that America is a lot more complex, interesting and colorful than the White world it has been depicting. And surprise, surprise, making movies with diverse ideas and actors can make money.

The box office success of movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians forces the entertainment industry’s studio heads and producers to rethink their old biases and acknowledge that people of color make up a substantial part of their audience.

“Today’s consumer has countless entertainment options, making it easier than ever for diverse audiences to find content that speaks to their tastes and experiences,” said Chief Commercial Officer and President of Movio Media Craig Jones. “If cinema is to remain relevant and continue having a cultural impact, it must attract these audiences by delivering more representative content.

Movio, a film industry marketing and data firm, on Thursday released a white paper, “The Diversity Demand: Securing the Future of Moviegoing.” The report examines how theatrical audience composition correlates to increased representation on screen, and if this suggests an opportunity to drive box office by producing content representative of audiences that have historically been underrepresented in film.

The analysis confirms a correlation between a minority group’s representation on screen and that group’s audience turnout, with some groups attending in numbers at more than twice the usual rate. The research also shows that increased representation of minority groups on screen can influence less engaged moviegoers within that demographic cohort to attend the theater.

As a cursory analysis, Movio selected several pairs of theatrically released films which would generally be considered “similar” in terms of both genre and budget. For each pair, one film featured an underrepresented lead or co-lead and the other film did not. The audience composition of each film was then analyzed by Movio’s data science team. Some highlights include:

  • The audience for Pixar’s Coco was nearly 75% more Latinx than the audience for another Pixar hit, Incredibles 2.
  • Horror hit Us brought out an audience that was nearly 100% more African American or Black than the audience that attended similar title, A Quiet Place.
  • Analyzing a trio of similar Romantic Comedy titles, the research found Crazy Rich Asians attracted an audience that was 186% more Asian and What Men Want attracted an audience that was 296% more African American or Black than the audience that attended Isn’t It Romantic.
  • Crazy Rich Asians also brought in a significantly higher share of First Time, Infrequent, and Occasional Asian moviegoers than any other ethnic cohort.
  • Comparing DC superhero hits Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the analysis shows the female led superhero title did not significantly alter the demographic profile of the audience in attendance, as both titles attracted an audience that was 40-41% female. Considering Hollywood’s longstanding hesitation to release a female-led superhero movie, the “absence of underperformance” within a certain audience group (male moviegoers, in this case) may be as meaningful as a title’s overperformance with another.
  • Mega Blockbuster hit Black Panther attracted an audience that was 38% more African American or Black than Avengers: Infinity War. This is huge in absolute terms, with 40.7% of all Black U.S. moviegoers attending Black Panther.

“Movie’s ability to tie ticket purchases to individual moviegoers enables us to decipher the drivers of collective moviegoing behavior and to analyze attendance trends within demographic groups,” says Jones, who will discuss the White Paper findings during his appearance at the upcoming New York Film Conference this Tuesday.
Download the full white paper here.

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