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Study: Movies, Television Shows with Diverse Casts Make More Money

UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies has released a new report, suggesting that Hollywood is costing itself money and brand loyalty with its chronic avoidance of diverse casts and themes.

Mother Jones breaks down the report, which outlines the economic performance, viewership, and return on investment in films and movies which have active representation from racial minorities in scripted work.

The researchers examined 163 films released in 2014 and found that the films with truly diverse casts (there were only eight) also had the highest median global revenues and returns on investment. The median film among the 55 with mostly lily-white casts grossed less than half as much—and barely broke even…

This isn’t happenstance. The diverse films did better because they attracted diverse audiences. Using data from RenTrak—a company that surveys moviegoers—the Bunche Center estimated that nonwhite audiences accounted for 58 percent of ticket sales for the eight most diverse films and nearly half of all movie tickets sold in the United States. More than a quarter of the total tickets were bought by people of Hispanic origin.

Researchers say that racially homogeneous approaches to casting, even with themes seemingly fit for nonwhite actors, are being rejected by audiences around the world.

The studios, in short, are leaving a ton of money on the table. “The conventional wisdom has been, you can’t have a film with a minority lead because it’s not going to travel well overseas—and films make most of their money overseas,” says Darnell Hunt, director of the Bunche Center. “What our study is suggesting is that that logic is false.” The same goes for TV, he says: “People want to see themselves reflected in media. You relate better to characters who kind of look like you, who have experiences that resonate with your own.”

Films like “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot” and “Aloha” have come under recent scrutiny for casting white actors in minority portrayals.