BIPOC Kept Hollywood Afloat but Representation Still Low, Study Finds

Latinx representation in Hollywood is far from representative of our population in the U

Hollywood diversity report

Photo: Pavel Danilyuk

Latinx representation in Hollywood is far from representative of our population in the U.S. and there’s a lot of work that needs to happen behind and in front of the camera. UCLA just released its annual Hollywood Diversity Report, and the findings are enlightening. The report looked at the top 200 English-language film releases from 2021, to determine representation of women and people of color in Hollywood films, both on-screen and behind the camera.

Notably, the latest Hollywood Diversity Report is the first to include films that were released after theaters re-opened amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that led to theater closures for most of 2020.This lead to a massive, industry-changing shift toward new movies releasing on streaming services both exclusively and simultaneously with theater releases once they began to re-open. According to the report, 2020 was also the first year during which employment of people of color in the Hollywood film industry was considered “proportionate representation”—  Latinxs alone make up 18.4 percent of the population with more than 60 million people.

hollywood diversity hiplatina

Photo: UCLA College of Social Sciences

Some key takeaways from the report:

  • People of color held 38.9 percent of lead roles in the top 200 films in 2021
  • People of color represented 43.1 percent of total actors in the top 200 films in 2021
  • People of color only represent 30.2 percent of directors for those films
  • People of color only represent 32.3 percent of writers for those films

Though it’s still relatively low considering our population, gains were made in all four areas of the industry. Women in the film industry, also made some gains though not as significant as those of people of color as a whole. Interestingly, although still underrepresented based on population, women made more significant gains as directors and film writers — the two areas in which people of color are still lagging behind.

Additional takeaways:

  • Women held 47.2-percent of lead roles in the top 200 films in 2021
  • Women represented 42.2-percent of total actors in the top 200 films in 2021
  • Women only represent 21.8-percent of directors for those films
  • Women only represent 33.5-percent of writers for those films

The Diversity in Hollywood report also concluded that films with casts that were between 21 percent and 30 percent minority had the highest median global box office receipts. Those with casts that were less than 11-percent minority had the poorest box office receipts in 2021.

Another important finding is that those films by female directors and writers had significantly more diverse casts than films written and directed by white men. That indicates that although women directors and film writers are not creating nearly as many movies as white men, they are creating more of the movies that audiences want to see judging by ticket sales.

Combined with data that shows that people of color represented the majority of opening weekend, domestic ticket sales for six out of the top 10 film releases in 2021, this information is a solid indicator of the influence and importance of minority communities on the future of the film industry.

Speaking specifically on Latinx movie watchers, the report found that eight out of the top 10 movies for Latinx viewers featured casts that were over 30 percent minority — ranked by the group’s share of opening weekend, domestic box office. That number is second only to Black viewers for which nine out of the top 10, were over 30 percent minority.

The report also confirmed that Latinx actors are still severely underrepresented in Hollywood, with only 7.1-percent of lead roles and 7.7 percent of all roles in the top 200 films in 2021, featuring Latinx leads. Latinas continue to approach parity with Latinos in terms of both lead and supporting roles in Hollywood films. Perhaps most telling is the fact that only 5.6 percent of those films were written by Latinx film writers, compared to the massive 67.7 percent of which were written by white writers.

As far as what we’re watching, Encanto, Clifford the Big Red Dog and In the Heights, were the top three films among Latinx viewers. We also appeared to have the most interest in animated and family films at the box office, compared to our Black, white and Asian counterparts.

The findings of the Hollywood Diversity Report make it abundantly clear that movie watchers from all backgrounds want to see and support more diverse casting of top-billed films, and confirm that there is still a huge problem with Latinx representation in Hollywood.

With the 94th Academy Awards airing just days after the release of the Hollywood Diversity Report, it’s also of interest to note that the report indicates that the majority of films released in the year 2020 that won Oscars were by directors of color and had minority leads, although none of the winners in the top categories had Latinx directors or leads.

“Last year, every time a big movie exceeded expectations or broke a box office record, the majority of opening weekend audiences were people of color,” Ana-Christina Ramón, co-author of the report and the director of research and civic engagement for UCLA’s social sciences division said. “For people of color, and especially Latino families, theaters provided an excursion when almost everything else was shut down. In a sense, people of color kept studios afloat the past couple of years. Studios should consider them to be investors, and as investors, they should get a return in the form of representation.”

In this Article

diversity Featured Latinx actors Latinx directors Latinx films latinx in entertainment latinx in film latinx movies Latinx representation representation trending
More on this topic