A new study from a leading talent agency has determined that female-led films perform better at the box office than those starring men, essentially dismantling the myth that female-focused movies are bad for business.
The Creative Arts Industry, in partnership with tech company shift7 and the anti-discrimination action plan and legal defense fund Time’s Up, released research on Tuesday that examined 350 of the top-grossing films between 2014 and 2017.
While films with male leads outnumbered those with women in lead roles (245 versus 105), the latter consistently made more money on average, across differing budget levels.
Films with female leads like “Moana,” “Trolls,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Wonder Woman,” which became the highest-grossing superhero origin film to date, were all major earners for studios in recent years.
“Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films led were generally less successful,” CAA researcher Christy Haubegger said in a statement. “We found that the data does not support that assumption.”
The research also filtered the top-grossing films through the Bechdel test, commonly used to track whether two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man. Films that passed the test easily surpassed the 40 percent that failed, with every film that made more than $1 billion at the box office passing.
Diversity has a “positive impact on a company’s bottom line,” noted Time’s Up President and CEO Lisa Borders, who encouraged studios to take heed of the study when considering the financial implications of producing films for and by men.
“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” former Sony Pictures President Amy Pascal added. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”
In 2017, the same organization determined that films with racial and ethnic diversity significantly boosted box office earnings on opening weekend.