Women and performers from typically under-represented racial/ethnic groups made notable gains in major motion pictures last year, reaching 13-year highs in leading or co-leading roles in the year’s 100 top films, according to a USC study released Tuesday.
According to the report by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, 43 of the 100 top-earning movies of 2019 featured a female lead or co-lead, up from 39 the previous year and more than double the number from 2014.
The report’s authors noted that despite reaching a 13-year high, the percentage of female leads or co-leads still lags behind the 51% of the population that is female, and the 47% of tickets sold to females at North American theaters.
The report also found that among the women in lead/co-lead roles, 16 were from under-represented racial/ethnic groups, up 5% from the previous year. But none of those performers identified as Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
It also found that in only three of the top 100 films that had a female lead or co-lead were those performers aged 45 or older.
According to the report, 31 of the top 100 films last year had a lead or co-lead performer from an under-represented racial/ethnic group, up from 27 in 2018 and up from 18 in 2014. Last year’s figure of 31 also represented a 13-year high in the category.
“Most importantly, this report reveals that for the first time in more than a decade, film is on par with television with regard to the quantity of stories about girls and women,” according to the study. “The percentage of leads/co-leads from under-represented racial/ethnic groups also increased slightly in 2019. … The continued progress toward greater inclusion is important to celebrate, even as we urge ongoing change — particularly for women age 45 and over, and for individuals — especially women — from racial/ethnic groups who are routinely erased in popular film.”
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