For years, Hollywood has had a very conspicuous problem with diversity. Leading roles were overwhelmingly filled by white men and women. To the extent people of color were represented, it was often in supporting roles.
Similarly, critical behind-the-camera roles like director were also primarily filled by non-minorities.
In recent years, however, Hollywood has become significantly more diverse, and there’s evidence to support the claim that this increase in diversity has had a direct and positive impact on the bottom line.
Growing Diversity in Hollywood
“The film installment of this year's Hollywood Diversity Report tracks the top 185 films of 2020, breaking down performance by box-office revenue for theatrical releases and, new for this year, Nielsen ratings for streaming films," writes Jessica Wolf in an article for UCLA Newsroom.
Some of the findings of the UCLA report include the following:
Of the top 185 films of 2020, more than half were released via streaming platforms only.
Of the films that had a theatrical release, minority audiences accounted for the bulk of ticket purchases.
Films with casts that were at least 21% minority enjoyed the highest online viewing ratings among all racial groups in the all-important 18–49 age category.
Women and people of color gained ground in all job categories tracked by the report: lead actors, total cast, writers, and directors.
People of color and women are still underrepresented as film writers and directors and typically helmed lower-budget films.
This data suggests a few important trends.
First, minority audiences represent a significant source of revenue for Hollywood, particularly those with a theatrical release. Second, even when films – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – were released online, film makers saw dividends, in the form of higher ratings, when they had a more diverse cast. Third, while gains have been made in terms of representation in front of the camera, it continues to lag behind the scenes with writers and directors.
UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report illustrates not only the progress made in diversifying Hollywood casts, but also the positive impact such diversification can have for film makers in terms of theater attendance and online viewing. The challenge for advocates of diversity and inclusion will be extending that increase in diversity to greater representation behind the camera.
It’s also important to note that the Hollywood experience is really no different than the broader business experience when it comes to embracing inclusion and diversity. How could a more strategic focus on building an inclusive culture positively impact your business, your employees, and those you serve?