Lack of Diversity Costing Hollywood Money

By Sheryl Estrada

According to 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report: Flipping the Script,” which makes a correlation between diversity and revenue in Tinseltown, business as usual “may soon be unsustainable” as “diversity sells.”

The report is the second in a series from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. It examines relationships between diversity and the bottom line in the Hollywood entertainment industry. The survey consists of the top 200 film releases in 2012 and 2013, and all broadcast, cable and digital-platform television programs from the 201213 season.

Films with a relatively diverse cast continue to excel. The report indicates that out of 163 films released in 2013, films with 21 to 30 percent Blacks/Latinos/Asians earned $143.3 million. As a benchmark, authors included that films in 2011 with the same percentage earned $160.1 million. This implies movies with 21 to 30 percent Blacks/Latinos/Asians incur the greatest return on investment, which factors a film’s budget into the analysis.

In 2012, the median worldwide box office was highest for the 15 films with casts that were from 31 to 40 percent Blacks/Latinos/Asians, at $130.5 million. Interestingly, these films included Django Unchained and Men in Black 3, both with Black male leads.

The authors also noted that in 2013, 50 films with casts of 10 percent or less Blacks/Latinos/Asians only earned $53.2 million.

Consumers are seeking diverse content created with the contributions of diverse talent. However, Hollywood’s professional academies, which are dominated by white males, continue to revel in the work of white males “as a matter of course, insisting that they do so in the name of talent and artistic merit.”

An example is the acting nominees for this year’s Academy Awards, which for only the second time in almost two decades were an entirely white group of actors and actresses.

The Film Industry in 2013

  • 94 percent of CEOs and/or chairs were white males
  • 92 percent of senior management were white
  • Women directed only 6 percent of theatrical films
  • Ethnic minorities received only 17 percent of the lead roles

“Because of the high risk associated with the typical project most new television shows fail, most films underperform individual stakeholders in the industry (white males) look to surround themselves with other individuals with whom they feel comfortable, with whom they feel they have the best prospects for producing a successful project,” the authors wrote. “These latter individuals, of course, tend to think and look like the former, thereby reproducing an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women.”

The percentages of female and Black/Latino/Asian actors, writers, directors and producers in films and TV ranges from less than 10 to 50 percent of their actual population percentage.

The “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect,” also showed that Blacks/Latinos/Asians and women were not making progress in regards to influential Hollywood positions, compared with the actual demographics of the U.S. population.The industry hasn’t improved much.

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