While the majority of today’s films still feature male protagonists, results from a recent study conducted in collaboration between Creative Artists Agency and shift7 reveal that movies with female leads have dominated global box offices since 2014. The research also demonstrates how films that passed the Bechdel Test — which measures how often two or more women in a movie speak about something other than a man — have done significantly better than films that failed the test. In fact, every movie that has generated over $1 billion (approx. £800 million) in the worldwide box offices since 2014 passed the Bechdel Test.
The results of the study were based on data taken from 350 top-grossing films from 2014 to 2017. According to The New York Times, 105 of those films were led by women and 245 by men. The movies were separated into five categories depending on their budget – under $10 million, $10 million to $30 million, and so on. Within all the groups, with the exception of the $30 million to $50 million bracket, the average earnings for films with female leads exceeded those of their male-led counterparts.
These pivotal results act as a wake-up call to filmmakers. They diminish the long, outdated myth told far too often in Hollywood: Movies with men in leading roles yield more revenue. “The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true,” Christy Haubegger of CAA told the Times. “They’re a marketing asset.”
CAA and shift7 first collaborated in 2017 through Time’s Up, an organisation fighting against sexual harassment in the workplace, when they released data that showed a positive correlation between multiracial casts in films and box office success.
These two sets of data are imperative in demonstrating the rapid increase of traditionally marginalised and even omitted characters on the big screen. They signify just how much the landscape of the entertainment industry is changing – how diversifying representation in films can prompt both social and economic benefits. Most of all, these results reveal the extent to which audiences are eager and willing to pay to see films that depict anything but the stories of average white men.