it's official: movies with women in lead roles make more money at the box office

A new study is putting the ‘films about women don’t make money!’ myth to bed once and for all.

by Roisin Lanigan
12 December 2018, 12:28pm

For some reason, a myth has always existed in Hollywood that’s told us -- the audiences -- that female-led films just don’t make as much money as their male-led counterparts. That’s why, according to the myth, we have to endure endless indie flicks about floppy haired, white, sad boys trying to find themselves to a soundtrack almost exclusively populated by The Moldy Peaches, or blockbuster film franchises about men with veiny skin who can fly or fight robots or some bullshit and are always called Chris. Anyway, a new study has found that the myth is just that, and that films which feature women in lead roles actually make more money at the box office. We’re saved!

New research from tech company Shift7 and CAA (Creative Artists Agency) found that female-led films outperform films led by men, with women-fronted movies making an average of $318 million, compared to $243 million in male-led films. The study, reported by Deadline, analysed 350 films which were released between January 2014 and December 2017, of which 105 were female led. For blockbuster movies, the gender disparity was even greater -- with women-led movies outperforming their male counterparts in films with a budget of over $100 million by a massive $72 million.

Speaking about the results of the study, CAA researcher Christy Haubegger explained “we found the data does not support the assumption [that female-led films don’t make money].” “Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films were generally less successful,” Christy said in a statement.

The research also assessed the commercial impact of the Bechdel Test -- which measures the representation of women in film by assessing whether a movie includes multiple female characters who speak together on screen about something other than men -- and found that this too, helped a film’s box office performance. In fact, since 2012, every film which made over $1 billion at the box office has passed the Bechdel Test.

While it’s true that this one study won’t singlehandedly help with the film industry’s chronic diversity problem, if it contributes in any way then that can only be a good thing. If audiences are paying good money to watch films which aren’t about white men and their struggles, then movie execs and studios have no excuse for not elevating other voices and their stories. “This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” said Amy Pascal, member of CAA and former chairperson of Sony Pictures. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

box office draws
The Bechdel Test