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Top Films Include Record Numbers of Women, Minorities

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Lupita Nyong'o in a scene from "Us."
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Lupita Nyong'o in a scene from "Us."
Top Films Include Record Numbers of Women, Minorities
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Hollywood’s awards season may not show it, but the most popular movies in the United States are increasingly diverse.

That is the finding of a report released this week. It comes from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. The report found that more of 2019’s top movies had women or members of racial minorities as lead characters than ever before.

Researchers with the university examined the 100 most popular films in North American theaters. They found that 31 movies had leads or co-leads from an underrepresented racial group. That represents an increase of four films from 2018 and is nearly three times higher than the number 10 years ago.

The researchers found similar gains for female lead actors. Of the same 100 films, 43 had female leads or co-leads, an increase of four films from 2018 and more than double the amount of female leads in 2007.

Other studies released last month showed an increase in the numbers of female directors. The combined research shows that after years of little diversity in front of and behind the camera, the American film industry is making real progress. It still does not completely represent the U.S. population, of which 51 percent is female and about 40 percent are people of color. But the California researchers called it “a banner year for inclusion.”

“It is clear that Hollywood is taking steps to create more inclusive stories and that those films are connecting with audiences,” Stacy L. Smith said in statement. She established the Inclusion Initiative.

But there has been little evidence of those gains yet in Hollywood’s awards season, which comes to a close on Sunday with the Academy Awards show. For the 87th time, no female filmmakers received nominations for best director. And while the much-nominated Korean film Parasite has made history, only one person of color was nominated for an acting award. That actor is Cynthia Erivo for her part in the movie Harriet.

At the British Academy of Film and Television Awards last weekend, only white actors were nominated.

The University of Southern California researchers also looked at the major companies which provide films to theaters. Popularity in theaters was an important measure in the study. So they did not include releases from streaming services including Netflix and Amazon, neither of which provided sales numbers for most of their 2019 releases.

Universal led all production studios in the study. It had nine films with a female lead and eight films with leads from an underrepresented ethnicity. Universal is the only production company led by a woman, Donna Langley.

I’m ­Pete Musto.

Jake Coyle reported this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

diverseadj. made up of people or things that are different from each other

character(s) – n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show

banner yearn. an especially good year

audience(s) – n. a group of people who gather together to listen to something, such as a concert, or watch something, such as a movie or play

streamingn. the act of playing continuously as data is sent to a computer over the Internet