POC Actors in Films Up 4% From 2022 While Women Fall Behind in UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report

UCLA released the 11th edition of its annual Hollywood Diversity Report on Thursday, showing 4% progress for actors, since 2022, and filmmakers of color in 2023 while women took a big step back.

Though people of color remain underrepresented in all film and TV jobs in Hollywood, UCLA showed that actors, writers and directors of color reached their largest share of films surveyed since the report began. The share of theatrical films directed by people of color hit 22.8%, up from 16% from last year and nearly double the 2011 figure.

UCLA also reported that the number of films with casts consisting 50% or more actors of color reached 26.4%, outnumbering other percentile ranges.

Authors Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón have long argued in the Hollywood Diversity Report that diverse films perform better at the box office and pointed to data showing that films that had between 31-40% actors of color had the highest median box office total in 2023. Films like “Barbie,” the year’s highest grossing film, and “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” are among the films that fell into this percentile range.

The range with the second highest median box office total was films with 41-50% POC share in their casts, a range that included films like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and the remake of “The Little Mermaid.”

“After examining global and domestic box office success and audience demographics for more than a decade, we have repeatedly found that people want to see films that reflect the diversity that exists in their communities and in the world,” said Ramón, co-founder of the report and director of UCLA’s Entertainment and Media Research Initiative.

But the report also found signs of stagnation and even regression in Hollywood’s diversity push. Only 16 of the top 200 highest grossing films were directed by women, and only five were directed by women of color. “Barbie” was also one of only three films directed by women with a budget of at least $100 million, while 25 at that top budget level were directed by men.

Hunt, executive vice chancellor and provost at UCLA, noted there are warning signs that diversity initiatives may backslide in the years ahead, as executives who were hired at studios like Netflix, Disney and Warner Bros., as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences all either resigned or were laid off over a 10-day span last summer.

“The question is if this upward trend of diversity will continue,” Hunt said. “These gains are most likely a result of the projects greenlit three years ago. We’re in a very different and politicized place, and as the efforts and executives who championed inclusivity and equity disappear from studios, will the next three to five years show a freefall in terms of diversity in Hollywood?”

The full report can be read on UCLA’s website.

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