LOS ANGELES – Representation of women and people of color in the film industry regressed in 2022 following three years of gains, even in the face of evidence that diverse movies fare better at the box office and attract bigger and more diverse audiences, according to a UCLA report released Thursday.
The UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report found that racial, ethnic and gender diversity among actors, directors and writers last year slipped back to 2019 levels.
According to the report, which examined English-language films among the top 200 theatrical releases and the top 100 English-language streaming films, found that people of color represented only 22% of lead actors in theatrical releases, just 17% of directors and 12% of writers. Women made up 39% of lead actors and 15% of directors.
Women did make some gains, representing 27% of movie writing positions, up from 17% in 2019, and 41% of overall acting roles, up from 40% in 2019, according to the report.
Streaming films tended to be more representative of the population overall, with people of color representing 23% of directing jobs, compared to just 17% in theatrical releases. But the report noted that streaming films tend to have smaller budgets, with 75% of the films directed by people of color having budgets of less than $20 million.
At 73%, white men continued to dominate the director’s chair for Hollywood’s biggest-budget films, according to the report. Researchers found that 60% of the films directed by white men had budgets of $30 million or more, while 56% of theatrical films directed by white women had budgets of less than $20 million.
“The pandemic has normalized diversity on screen, not just in theaters but at home,” report co-author Michael Tran, a UCLA doctoral candidate, said in a statement. “Audiences tuned in. If Hollywood reverses course on diversity in the theaters, they’ll lose audiences to streaming and to international offerings.”
According to the report, six of the top 10 theatrical films in 2022 had audiences that were at least 50% minority moviegoers.
“Hollywood has to look itself in the mirror and identify the concrete practices that actually work to move the needle on the industry’s diversity problem,” Darnell Hunt, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, and co-founder of the report said in a statement. “… Diversity should not be considered a luxury but a necessity. Audiences of color are the bedrock of Hollywood and key to the bottom line as research shows once again that audiences prefer diverse casts.”
The report found that theatrical films released last year with casts that were between 31% and 40% minority had the highest median global box office receipts, while films with casts that were less than 11% minority “were the poorest performers.”