2018 Finally Brought Record Highs In Diversity For Leading Hollywood Roles: Study

But the researchers warn that despite hits like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians," Hollywood leaders "must not grow complacent."

With two box-office juggernauts led by casts dominated by people of color, 2018 has been lauded as a landmark year for diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. Now, new analysis from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative solidifies that “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” were part of a year that featured a record number of women and people of color in leading roles since 2007, when the group first began studying the issue.

According to a report released Tuesday, 40 of 2018’s top 100 highest-grossing movies were led or co-led by women, up from 32 in 2017 and 20 in 2007.

A woman of color starred in 11 of the movies, compared with only four in 2007, and 11 movies also featured at least one woman age 45 or older, indicating that Hollywood might be moving away from its pattern of relegating older actresses to smaller roles and less prominent movies.

All represent increases from the numbers during previous years — finally suggesting some progress, compared to the mostly stagnant results from the group’s prior studies over the last 12 years.

“2018 offers hope that industry members have taken action to create content that better reflects the world in which we live, and the box office seems to have rewarded them for it,” Stacy L. Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, said in a statement.

But Smith, who has long studied diversity and representation in the entertainment industry, warned that while the results from 2018 demonstrate change, “companies must not grow complacent but continue the progress they have made in 2019 and in the years to come.”

While the new study illustrates progress in front of the camera, other recent studies of representation in Hollywood have shown slower progress in achieving diversity in behind-the-scenes roles, such as directing, writing, editing and cinematography.

And there is still mixed success among different racial and ethnic groups. According to the Annenberg study, among the stars of the 100 top-earning movies in 2018, there were five black women, two Latina women, three multiracial women and one Asian woman. No Middle Eastern or Native women were featured.

The study also notes that the results are still not representative of the U.S. population, as well as moviegoing audiences, which are increasingly diverse.

Smith helped create the concept of an inclusion rider, popularized last year, when Best Actress Oscar winner Frances McDormand urged fellow stars to adopt the measure, mentioning it in her acceptance speech. The inclusion rider involves stars putting a provision in their contracts that mandates diverse hiring when negotiating new projects.

At last month’s Sundance Film Festival, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in collaboration with Hollywood’s Time’s Up initiative, launched a challenge calling on industry leaders to pledge to work with at least one female director in the next 18 months. Named the 4 Percent Challenge, the figure denotes that from 2007 to 2018, only 4 percent of the highest-grossing movies were directed by women.

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