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Yet Another Study Reveals Women-Led Films Do Better, So Who Are We Trying To Convince?

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in 'Wonder Woman'

Today, new research from CAA and tech firm Shift7 was released that drove home a familiar point: female led titles do better than male led ones. Across five budget brackets — below $10 million, $10 to $30 million, $30 to $50 million, $50M to $100 million, and $100 million or more — and 350 titles, female-led films performed better than their male counterparts. Similarly, films that passed the Bechdel Test were more likely to have a higher box office, and since 2012 all films to gross more than $1 billion at the box office have passed that test.

Amy Pascal, former Chairman of Sony Pictures and one of the heads of the group, said in a quote shared by Deadline “This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen. Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.” Similarly, producer and founder of 3dot productions Liz Chasin said “Understandably, the studios think about the bottom line, so it’s great to see a growing body of data that should make it easier for executives to make more inclusive decisions.”

A third member of this group, actress and activist Geena Davis, stated that “there is so much unconscious bias in this space. The truth is that seeing women and girls on screen is not only good for everyone – especially our children – it’s also good entertainment and good business.”

The findings point to female-led films being more profitable than male-led films, which is something a look at the 2017 box office makes a case for. The top three grossers from that year were The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, and Beauty and the Beast. This data backs these box office statistics up from January 2014 until the end of 2017, proving that this trend has been on the rise for a while.

As great as it is to have cold, hard data on our side, the question becomes then: what’s next? Will these numbers finally shatter the myth that women-led films are somehow not as good or don’t earn as much at the box office? Or will we see this happen again in 2019, 2020, and on and on until the inevitable heat death of the universe?

And how many of these films were made by white male directors? We’ve covered plenty of studies that talk about lack of inclusion behind the camera. If female-led stories are doing so well, why not hire a woman to write or direct them? It worked for DC. It’s probably going to work for Marvel. We shouldn’t have women being routinely shut out of telling their own stories.

There is much to be done to make Hollywood inclusive on nearly every level. The proof is in the pudding that films that don’t just feature homogenous, male-centered casts are profitable. What remains to be seen is if the mercenary concept that representation equals money is enough to push Hollywood in the right direction. If the box office numbers point to female-led projects doing well, then we should see more of them.

We should also, hopefully, see more women behind the camera because to continuously give female-led projects to white male directors is a disservice to Hollywood’s perceived message of inclusivity, and says that only one kind of person can tell a story. With more women being shut out of the awards circuit again this year, it’s time for studies like these to actually be read by Hollywood executives, and for more change to happen.

(via Deadline, image: Warner Bros)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.