The research was done by Creative Artists Agency (C.A.A.) and shift7, which examined films from 2014 to 2017. Movies that were women-led earned more money than those led by men, regardless of the film’s original budget. Some of these films included Wonder Woman, Moana, Inside Out, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Trolls.
Films that passed the Bechdel test, which tests whether two women characters in a movie have a conversation about something other than a man, were also more successful.
Christy Haubegger, a C.A.A. agent on the research team for the study, stated, “The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true. They’re a marketing asset.” Because of this perception, Haubegger explained, women-led films receive significantly more scrutiny from studios.
Previous research from San Diego State University found that in 2017, women only accounted for a fourth of protagonists in top films. Additionally, they only played a third of major characters. The study also found that the amount of speaking roles for women dropped in 2017 compared to the previous year.
“A lot of times in our business there is a lot of bias disguising itself as knowledge,” Haubegger stated.
The report comes as a way to pressure Hollywood into giving more women the roles they deserve, both onscreen and behind-the-scenes. It was conducted alongside a working group from the Time’s Up movement, which seeks to fight against workplace harassment and achieve equality for women in Hollywood.
The study was based on 350 films of various budget sizes. Of those 350, 105 were films with women leads, while 245 were led by men. The films were broken down by budget and compared to see how well they did, with women-led films consistently surpassing other films.
The Bechdel test was applied to 319 of the 350 films reviewed by the C.A.A. Of the 319, 60 percent passed. Researchers found that no film produced between 2014 and 2017 earned $1 billion without passing the Bechdel test.
The explanation for this success?
While women account for about half of movie tickets sold, Haubegger believes viewers are looking for new storylines within film. For decades, viewers have been watching the same storylines under different titles.
“You’ve got superhero fans that haven’t seen innovation in superhero movies in 36 years,” Haubegger stated.
Whatever the reason, it is exciting to learn that women are the driving forces behind successful Hollywood films. With women revolutionizing the storylines of films and causing box office success, hopefully prominent figures in the film scene will take note and green-light more women-led blockbusters in the future.
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