NEW YORK – A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed to promote gender equality in Hollywood, has found that female-led films consistently outperform male-led movies at the box office.
The study analyzed the 350 top-grossing films worldwide released between January 2014 and December 2017. Researchers found that in films with small, medium and large budgets, all averaged better global grosses when a woman was listed as the lead star.
This analysis, if accurate, would seem to be a stunning failure of attention to the bottom line by the people (mostly men) who currently run Hollywood – a failure spanning decades.
However, the study’s definition of “female-led” films might be different from what an audience would perceive. The study defines a “female lead” as a female actor who is listed first in official media materials.
For example, “Captain America: Civil War” is listed as a film that made at least $1 billion worldwide and features leading women (Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen) in the superhero ensemble cast. But most viewers might conclude that the real stars are male actors such as Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.
The study, conducted by the talent agency Creative Artists Agency and the tech company shift7, found that films that passed the Bechdel test do better, too.
The Bechdel test, an invention of the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, rates whether a movie features two female characters having a conversation about something other than a man.
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