*A new report from the UCLA-based Center for Scholars and Storytellers found that Hollywood studios could lose money from movies that lack diversity.
In the study titled “Beyond Checking A Box: A Lack of Authentically Inclusive Representation Has Costs at the Box Office,” researchers noted that a lack of authentic diversity in films could result in huge financial losses for studios.
Here’s a summary of the study from Deadline:
The report analyzed 109 movies from 2016 to 2019 and found that movie studios can expect to lose up to $130 million per film when their offerings lack authentic diversity in their storytelling.
They estimate a $159 million movie will lose $32.2 million, approximately 20% of the its budget, in first weekend box office, with a potential total loss of $130 million, 82% of its budget. For a $78 million budget movie will lose $13.8 million in its opening weekend for a lack of diversity, with a potential total loss of $55.2 million, 71% of its budget.
To no surprise, small-budget films lead the charge when it comes to diversity, dramatically surpassing big-budget pics on AIR. The analysis looked at films such as Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight from 2016 (budget: $4 million, total box office: $26 million) and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird from 2017 (budget: $10 million, total box office: $48 million).
The researchers analyzed the first weekend U.S. box office results because these numbers closely capture audience demand before word-of-mouth, reviews and the release of newer films impact attendance.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a movie called The Bodyguard. You remember it, right? 1992 romance, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. It made some $410m internationally. Which, in 2020 dollars is about $760m. https://t.co/Rg5SIIWP3o
— Masks Bernardin (@marcbernardin) October 7, 2020
“We asked, what is the cost of lacking diversity? Hollywood is a business, and no business wants to leave money on the table,” said senior author Yalda T. Uhls. “While increasing numerical representation behind and in front of the camera is critical, truly empowering people from diverse backgrounds is the key. For example, make sure the writers room is open to dissenting opinions, that a wide net is cast for hiring, and that younger, less-tenured voices are encouraged.”
“Storytelling that lacks AIR in race, gender and sexuality can have immediate and significant costs,” said Gerald Higginbotham, a UCLA psychology doctoral student, and co-author of the report.
“While our findings are specific to box office, we believe we captured broadly the more immediate costs of lacking AIR, which is relevant to other kinds of releases and types of content,” Higginbotham said.
In the study, researchers offer the following recommendations to enhance the archaic Hollywood model:
- Implement explicit norms and guidelines to ensure that all viewpoints will be shared.
- Hire diverse casting directors who can bring in original and dynamic talent from underrepresented groups.
- Bring in expertise at the beginning of the development process, not as a band-aid later on.
- Include counter-stereotypical, multi-dimensional characters. Avoid stereotypes by portraying characters of color with rich identities.
- If there is a writers room, ensure that all voices, viewpoints and experiences are heard and welcome.
“In light of the national conversation around systemic racism, it is well past time for entertainment media creators to think beyond on-screen numerical representation as a marker of ‘inclusivity and diversity,’ Uhls said. “Diverse representation in race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and their intersections, particularly behind the camera, is still lacking and slow to change. Without including a broader swath of voices on every level of a production, from set decorator or costume designer to director or actor, stories and characters will come across as stereotypical.”
Read the full report here.