If films felt a bit more diverse in 2019 than in previous years, it wasn’t an illusion. People of color graced the big screen more last year than during any other, according to two new studies, The New York Times reported on February 6.
For seven years, UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment has published its annual “Hollywood Diversity Report.” The latest iteration of the report examined the top 200 films released globally in 2018 and 2019, ranked by box office earnings. This year, they found that “since the previous report, people of color posted gains relative to their White counterparts in each of the five key Hollywood employment arenas examined in the film sector (i.e., among film leads, film directors, film writers, total actors and studio heads),” even though they still remain underrepresented, the report confirmed.
The University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report, which looked at the gender and race of film leads across 1,300 movies from 2007 to 2019, echoed the increase in diverse representation. According to USC, 2019 saw a four percent increase from the prior year in people of color as leads or co-stars and 18 percent since 2007. “The slight gain from last year makes 2019 a 13-year high in the representation of people of color in leading or co-leading roles,” the report confirmed. But just as UCLA found, the Hollywood numbers still need more work to track with the national average, which it reportedly falls short of by 8.6 percentage points.
"It is clear that Hollywood is taking steps to create more inclusive stories and that those films are connecting with audiences," Stacy L. Smith, the founder of the USC initiative, told The Times. This includes the finding that 31 of the top 100 grossing movies from 2019 starred or co-starred an actor of color. “Yet, there is also a very obvious disconnect between what sells tickets and what garners awards points,” Smith continued.