Diversity in Hollywood has declined in 2022 even though diverse films performed the best in theaters.
Although there have been huge accomplishments in Hollywood this year in terms of diversity such as Everything Everywhere All at Once sweeping the big Oscars at this year's Academy Awards, Ruth E. Carter becoming the first Black woman to win two Oscars for costume design, and Autumn Durald Arkapaw ASC becoming the first woman of color to grace the cover of American Cinematographer Magazine, women and people of color are still underrepresented in most jobs in the film industry.
According to the latest UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, there has been a dip in the steadily rising numbers of representation in the film industry. In 2022, diversity in several key roles has returned to 2019 levels.
Why have these numbers fallen when diverse movies are more successful at the box office? Let’s get into it.
The Numbers Behind UCLA’s 2022 Diversity Report
In theatrical releases, people of color composed 22% of lead actors, 17% of directors, and 12% of writers.
Women gained more ground this year as writers and in acting roles by holding 27% of movie writing positions and 41% in acting roles.
Streaming films, however, were dominant in representing and reflecting the diversity of the overall U.S. population. Women had a nearly equal share of leading acting roles to men.
This year’s report also uncovered the impact that the person at the helm of the film can have on the diversity of the cast and crew. Films directed by white men tend to have less diversity on set, with 38% of the top streaming films directed by white men having casts that were less than 30% minority actors, than those directed by women and people of color.
This is an issue to be concerned about because white men continue to direct the majority of Hollywood’s biggest-budget projects. For comparison, 56% of theatrical films directed by white women had budgets smaller than $20 million and 17% of theatrical films directed by people of color had budgets below $20 million, while 60% of films directed by white men had budgets of $30 million or more.
Diversity Saved the Box Office
Throughout the Hollywood Diversity Report’s history, its findings consistently confirm one thing: “diverse movies are more successful at the box office, attracting more diverse – and larger – audiences.”
The report found that 64% of films released on streaming services had a cast with at least 30% minority actors, while 57% of theatrical films had cast with that percentage of minority actors.
These films cannot be disregarded in any shape, way, or form. As the report states, “Six of the top ten films released in the theater had audiences that were at least 50% minority moviegoers, and the success of all of the top 10 streaming films were fueled by an overrepresentation of audiences of color.”
As theaters across the world are struggling to stay open, they are looking for a solution to draw larger audiences to the silver screen. It seems that the solution is simple, and is the one we have all been asking for.
“People of color saved the theatrical industry during the pandemic, and they are key to bringing the theatrical business back to its pre-pandemic levels,” Ana-Christina Ramón, the director of UCLA’s Entertainment and Media Research Initiative, said.
“Diversity should not be considered a luxury but a necessity,” said Hunt, who is also a professor of sociology and African American Studies at UCLA. “Audiences of color are the bedrock of Hollywood and key to the bottom line as research shows once again that audiences prefer diverse casts.”
So, why are people of color given more directing jobs for streaming films (23%) than theatrical releases (17%) when diverse films by diverse filmmakers draw in larger audiences? While the pandemic has normalized diversity on screen at home, Hollywood hasn’t gotten the message that this diversity needs to be on the big screen.
There are a slew of improvements that need to be made but let's start with the ones we can make this year.
People, especially young people who will determine movie-going behaviors for the future, want to see themselves on the screen, and a majority of the population under the age of 18 belongs to communities of color. As directors, writers, and casting agents, we need to see diversity on screen. We need to see women and people of color on the screen. People need to see themselves.
As for roles behind the camera, we have a duty to recommend and reach out to our friends who identify as women and people of color. Help open those doors to more possibilities.
There is a lot of work to do, and we can’t keep taking steps back. It’s shameful that we have fallen back to 2019 numbers, so let’s work together to make improvements in diversity in the film industry that need to be made.
Let us know your thoughts on this diversity report in the comments below.
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