Study Finds Hollywood Does Not Offer Adequate Production and Marketing Support for Films Starring Women

A common belief in Hollywood circles is that on average films with a woman lead actor will not perform as well at the box office as films with a male lead. But a new report authored by Rene Weber, a professor of communications at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Stacy Smith, associate professor and director of the Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, may put that belief to rest.

The authors examined the economic performance of 1,200 top films from 2007 to 2018. They found that when controlling for a set of production, distribution, and exhibition factors, films with female lead or co-lead characters do not perform significantly different than those with male lead characters domestically and internationally.

“This study confirms our previous work indicating that the gender of the lead/co-lead character is not a significant predictor of box office performance,” said Dr. Smith. “Rather, it is other factors that are within the control of executives — production costs, promotion, distribution density, and the story itself that play a key role in a movie’s success.”

In other words, if Hollywood executives provided the same level of production and marketing support to movies with women as the lead characters, they would enjoy similar box office success as movies with male leads.

Dr. Smith joined the faculty at the University of Southern California in 2003. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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