Hollywood Studios Have Lost Money From Movies That Lack Diversity

'Coco'
'Coco'
Hollywood cares about money more than anything and the lack of diversity is hitting them in the pockets.

I want Hollywood to champion new voices and expand the kinds of faces we see in front of and behind the camera but it seems like the only thing they care about is money. Well, now a new study has come out from the Center for Scholars and Storytellers at UCLA titled “Beyond Checking A Box: A Lack of Authentically Inclusive Representation Has Costs at the Box Office" which shows that those two things may not be mutually exclusive.

Researchers found that bringing authentic diversity to film improves financial performance at the box office while a lack of diversity can result in losses for studios.

So, it's time to pay attention, Hollywood. Just how much money have you been leaving on the table? 

The report analyzed 109 movies from 2016 to 2019. The major finding is that studios can expect to lose up to $130 million per film when their offerings lack diversity in storytelling. Even more damning to tentpoles is that researchers found films with a budget of $159 million or more are subject to a significant cost in the opening weekend box office for a lack of diversity.

That might shake things up. 

'Black Panther'
'Black Panther'

The report estimated that a $159 million movie will lose $32.2 million, around 20% of its budget, in first-weekend box office if it lacked diversity. 

There's the potential to lose $130 million, or 82% of its budget, given the full theatrical run.

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.

“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, a UCLA adjunct assistant professor of psychology and founder and executive director of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers. “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.”

'The Farewell'
'The Farewell'

For their analysis, the researchers created a rating they call “authentically inclusive representation,” or AIR, which utilized data from the diversity-focused movie and TV review website Mediaversity Reviews.

“Storytelling that lacks AIR in race, gender and sexuality can have immediate and significant costs,” said Gerald Higginbotham, a UCLA psychology doctoral student and lead author of the report, “Beyond Checking a Box: A Lack of Authentically Inclusive Representation Has Costs at the Box Office.”

So how can Hollywood improve? 

Here are some of the suggestions made to studios:  

  • 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, multidimensional 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.
'Moonlight'
'Moonlight'

“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.”

Money had undoubtedly been left on the table when it comes to content creation and entertainment. 

How long will Hollywood let it strip them of cashflow?      

Your Comment

11 Comments

So Parasite would have been better with a gay, trans, person of color...
Jason once again with the greatest nonsense on the site.

October 6, 2020 at 2:26PM

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Jacob J Gonzalez
Producer/DP
100

I feel it's common for these types of topics to go over your head.

Jacob once again with the greatest nonsense comment on the site (probably, who knows or cares that much.)

October 6, 2020 at 5:48PM

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TJ
188

Hey Jacob. Did you... um. So...did you not feel that Parasite featured performers and filmmakers that had voices not commonly represented in Western media?

October 6, 2020 at 10:34PM

5
Reply

the reason all those movies loose money is because they suck, not because of diversity.

Moonlight is badass!

October 7, 2020 at 12:13PM

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Jacob J Gonzalez
Producer/DP
100

Wrong.

October 8, 2020 at 6:51AM

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Luan Oliveira
film student in Rio
299

Ah, nofilmschool, PC police... Millennial socialism gone mad. Just stick to film making and leave the politics at the door.

October 6, 2020 at 8:45PM

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I wonder if it’s tougher that you don’t know what socialism is or that you’re comfortable commenting on something you didn’t understand. This article was all about Hellerman’s take on the business of filmmaking and if diversity impacts the creative process, therefore impacting box office. Maybe just stick to skimming articles and leave filmmaking at the door.

Also... you don’t think filmmaking is political? Oh boy.

October 6, 2020 at 10:29PM

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Hey NoFilmSchool, I, as much a reader as rnfr, would like you to please keep talking about politics.

There.

October 8, 2020 at 6:51AM

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Luan Oliveira
film student in Rio
299

Why is this guy still writing for this website? All of his articles are utter garbage.

October 7, 2020 at 2:53AM

3
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I was just talking about this with a friend. Marvel movies especially, almost everyone represented but Latinos which account for 23% of box office openings for their movies.

October 7, 2020 at 5:07PM

6
You voted '-1'.
Reply

It has nothing to do with 'diverisity' as 'diversity' has nothing to do with quality. This is art, not a social justice construct. No one goes to the movies having first checked that they satisfy the 'diversity' quota. Hollywood has lost more money from movies with 'diversity' (just check the recent installments of the 'Star Wars' saga), and unless they stop 'diversifying', they will lose even more.

October 8, 2020 at 11:26PM, Edited October 8, 11:29PM

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avatar
Pavel Tsvetkov
Producer/Director/Writer
236