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Movies with Diverse Casts Make More Money, Study Says

"People want to see a world that looks like theirs."

by Drew Schwartz
Jun 21 2017, 4:35pm

Photo via Disney's 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' website

A sweeping study of films released between 2014 and 2016 found that movies with diverse casts take in millions more at the box office than their whitewashed counterparts, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Creative Artists Agency (CAA)—the talent agency that represents A-listers like Brad Pitt, Will Smith, and Meryl Streep—commissioned the study of 413 pictures that came out over the course of those two years. The study noted the ethnicity of each movie's top-billed actors, the racial makeup of those movies' audiences, and how much the films made in opening weekend ticket sales.

The study found that films that featured diverse casts—like Star Wars: The Force Awakens—brought in more diverse audiences. Films that brought in more diverse audiences nearly tripled the amount of money in a box office weekend that films with mostly white actors made—an average of $31 million, compared to $12 million. Additionally, the study found that of 2016's ten highest-grossing movies, seven brought in audiences that were made up of a majority of non-white moviegoers.

Regardless of the budget, "truly diverse" films—whose casts were at least 30 percent non-white—brought in more cash than those that weren't.

"One of the interesting things that the most successful movies share is that they're broadly appealing to diverse audiences," Christy Haubegger, head of CAA's multicultural development group, told the LA Times. "People want to see a world that looks like theirs."

Though there's a massive amount of money to be made by casting people of color, Hollywood movies are still largely white, straight, and male, and the industry's done a particularly bad job of representing LGBTQ characters. But maybe—if studio execs, producers, and casting agents take note of the CAA's report—we'll start to see movies like Moonlight and Hidden Figures transform from rarities into industry norms.

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