What movies like ‘Hidden Figures’ can teach studio executives
Will this be the year that movie executives finally get it?
Not only did African-American-dominant movies rock this year’s Golden Globes — “Moonlight,” with minority stars like Janelle Monáe, Naomi Harris and Trevante Rhodes, took home the award for best drama — they killed it at the box office. “Hidden Figures,” the tale of three black female mathematicians at NASA, beat out the latest “Star Wars” installment to become top dog at the North American box office in early January. (Hidden Figures is released by Twentieth Century Fox, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox which shares common ownership with News Corp, parent company of Moneyish publisher Dow Jones & Company.)
This is no accident: Movies with a lot of minorities in them generally attract more moviegoers, according to UCLA’s 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report, which studied 200 major motion pictures released in 2014. The eight films released that year with a 41% to 50% minority cast had a median global box office gross of $122.2 million; on the other hand, the 55 films with minority representation of below 10% had returns of just $52.6 million.
One reason: Films with diverse casts attract diverse audiences who might not otherwise have watched the film. “These [films] show that behind black and brown and yellow, there’s green,” as in cash, says Jason George, chair of the Screen Actor’s Guild Diversity Advisory committee, who appears regularly on “Grey’s Anatomy” as Dr. Ben Warren.
Though minority-filled films are often box office gold, studio execs aren’t casting many minorities or producing many movies targeted at them. Minorities made up just 12.9% of the main roles cast in 2014, down from the previous year’s 16.7%, according to the latest data available.
#GodIs I have been told my entire career "Black women can't open films domestically or internationally". Well anything is possible. Most importantly this proves that PEOPLE LIKE GOOD MATERIAL. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER OR RACE. Agreed?! Thank you to everyone who supported this weekend even during the snow storm (which btw affected some of our biggest demographics). AND WE WERE IN FEWER THEATERS!!! What a proud moment!!! #HiddenFigures🚀 💋💋💋 P.S. telling me what I can't do only makes me focus on proving nay Sayers WRONG!!! 😘
But maybe this year’s audience numbers will convince them. Fully 37% of “Hidden Figures” audience was African-American, the Hollywood Reporter said; by contrast, MPAA data show that African-Americans purchased 13% of all tickets sold in 2013. And almost 60% of those who watched Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” which addresses racial tensions in the 1950s, were ethnic minorities, according to comScore data. The film has grossed over $40 million domestically, on a budget of $25 million.
This article was originally published on MarketWatch.
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