Movies & TV

Study finds female-led films outperform male ones

Daisey Ridley and John Boyega in a scene from J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens." Film Frame/Disney/Copyright Lucasfilm 2015 via AP

NEW YORK: A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed to promote gender equality, has found that female-led films consistently outperform male-led movies at the box office. The study analyzed the 350 top-grossing films worldwide released between January 2014 and December 2017. Researchers found that in films with small, medium and large budgets, all averaged better global grosses when a woman was listed as the lead star. The study, conducted by the talent agency Creative Artists Agency and the tech company shift7, found that films that passed the Bechdel test do better, too. The Bechdel test, an invention of the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, rates whether a movie features two female characters having a conversation about something other than a man.

Researchers found every $1 billion film at the box office - including films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World” and “Beauty and the Beast” - passed the Bechdel test. Among films that cost more than $100 million to make, the ones that passed the Bechdel test grossed on average $618 million worldwide, while those that didn’t averaged $413 million.

“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 agent Christy Haubegger, who participated in the research, said in a statement.

Depending on budget data from Nielsen’s Gracenote, researchers determined lead actors by the cast order listed in a movie’s billing block (the text at the bottom of a movie poster), press notes or final credits. Of the 350 films studied, 105 qualified as female-led and 245 registered as male-led. The greatest gap was in larger budgeted films. In movies with a budget greater than $100 million, there were 75 male-led films and 19 female-led films.

The study was headed by a Time’s Up working group led in part by Amy Pascal, former chairman of Sony Pictures. Earlier research by academics has chronicled similar rates of inequality in top-grossing Hollywood releases, and the financial benefits of inclusion.

“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” Pascal said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 13, 2018, on page 12.

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