New study finds diverse audiences drive blockbusters
New study finds diverse audiences drive blockbusters
UCLA’s Bunche Center released its fifth annual study on diversity in the entertainment industry Tuesday, unveiling an analysis of the top 200 theatrical film releases of 2016 and 1,251 broadcast, cable and digital platform TV shows from the 2015-2016 season. Among its results: minorities accounted for the majority of ticket buyers for five of the top 10 films at the global box office, and half of ticket buyers for two more of the top 10.
Researchers found that minorities remain underrepresented in film leads (13.9 percent), film directors (12.6 percent), film writers (8.1 percent), broadcast scripted leads (18.7 percent), cable scripted leads (20.2 percent) and digital series leads (12.9 percent).
Many of those totals do represent some modest gains, especially when viewed across five years. (Minority leads on broadcast TV shows increased from 5.1 percent to 15.7 over the last five years, according to UCLA’s studies.) But other areas — especially behind the camera — have seen only slight or no improvement.
“There has been some progress, undeniably. Things are not what they were five years ago,” said Darnell Hunt, co-author of the report and director of the center, which focuses on African American studies, at the University of California, Los Angeles. “People are actually talking about diversity today as a bottom-line imperative as opposed to just the right thing to do. We’ve amassed enough evidence now that diversity does, in fact, sell.”
Minorities make up nearly 40 percent of the US population, but Hispanic and African-American moviegoers over-index among moviegoers. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, Latinos make up 18 percent of the US population but account for 23 percent of frequent moviegoers. Though African Americans are 12 percent of the population, they make up 15 percent of frequent moviegoers.
UCLA found that films with casts that were 21 to 30 percent minority regularly performed better at the box office than films with the most racially and ethnically homogenous casts.
Hunt believes that the wealth of data, as well as box-office successes like “Black Panther,” has made obvious the financial benefits of films that better reflect the racial makeup of the American population.
“I think the industry has finally gotten the memo, at least on the screen in most cases, if not behind the camera,” said Hunt. “That’s where there are the most missed opportunities.”
The report, titled “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” covers a period of some historic high points for Hollywood, including the release of the best picture-winning “Moonlight,” along with fellow Oscar nominees “Hidden Figures” and “Fences.”
But researchers found the overall statistical portrait of the industry, while slightly improving on many counts, still trails far behind the entertainment audience.
“With each milestone achievement, we chip away at some of the myths about what’s possible and what’s not,” said Hunt. “Every time a film like this does really well, every time we see a TV show like ‘Empire,’ it makes it harder for them to make the argument that you can’t have a viable film with a lead of color. Or you can’t have a universally appealing show with a predominantly minority cast. It’s just not true anymore because the mainstream, itself, is diverse.”
Some of the largest disparities for minorities detailed by the UCLA report were in roles like film writers (8.1 percent of 2016’s top films), creators of broadcast scripted shows (7.1 percent) and creators of cable scripted shows (7.3 percent). Hunt blamed the lag behind the camera on, among other factors, executive ranks that are still overwhelmingly white and male.
“It’s a white-male controlled industry and it hasn’t yet figured out how to incorporate other decision-makers of color and women into the process. So you have these momentary exceptions to the rule,” said Hunt, pointing to “Black Panther,” which has grossed $700 million worldwide in two weeks of release.
Such films, he said, show the considerable economic sense of making movies and television series that don’t ignore nearly half of their potential audience.
“It’s business 101,” Hunt said.
Nigeria sees a rush to get Nollywood online
- Nollywood is home to the world’s second biggest movie industry in terms of production behind Hindi-language Bollywood.
- A viable economic model for the promoters of Nollywood online still needs to be found, given the lack of widespread high-speed Internet coverage
LAGOS, Nigeria: A glamor blogger, a filmmaker and a tech mogul are competing to create a homegrown African rival to Netflix, but poor Internet connections and intense competition are proving daunting obstacles.
They dream of popularizing access to films made in Nigeria, which is home to the world’s second biggest movie industry in terms of production behind Hindi-language Bollywood.
With nearly $4 billion in revenue and almost 2,000 productions every year, films made in what is known as Nollywood are largely sold on the streets and to idling motorists caught in traffic as pirated copies for just a few dollars.
Local start-ups and Nollywood stars understand the interest in changing the distribution of films that are hugely popular across Africa, where cinemas are few and far between.
With such a huge potential market, video-on-demand platforms have sprung up in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and home to the country’s film industry.
And competition is already fierce.
Blogger Linda Ikeji — one of Nigeria’s biggest names on social networks — recently launched Linda Ikeji TV (LITV) to great fanfare.
It offers dozens of films, series and programs inspired by US shows but with a Nollywood twist for a monthly fee of 1,000 naira ($2.80).
“We are hoping to be to Africa what Netflix is to the world,” Ikeji wrote on her Instagram page, which has some two million followers.
She promised glamor, sass and humor, particularly with reality shows such as “Football Wives” or “Highway Girls of Eko,” “a show on real-life prostitutes” in Lagos.
The 37-year-old former model-turned-businesswoman made her fortune through advertising revenue on her site, which tracked the lives of Nigeria’s rich and famous.
She said she had invested “half-a-billion naira” of capital in the project. As well as buying video, she is also making original content from her own studios in Lagos.
Before the end of the year, Nigerian company Envivo is expected to launch its own platform with an initial investment of more than $20 million, said filmmaker Chioma Ude, who is the firm’s marketing director.
“(US telecoms giant) Cisco wants a big footprint in Africa, and as our technical partner, they will provide all the technology, from the network to the video compressions, etc.,” the founder of the Africa International Film Festival said.
A viable economic model for the promoters of Nollywood online still needs to be found, given the lack of widespread high-speed Internet coverage.
Only 34 percent of Africans have Internet access compared with more than 50 percent in the rest of the world, according to the 2018 Global Digital report.
But Africa showed the biggest progression in Internet users last year, especially through mobile telephones.
Serge Noukoue, organizer of the annual Nollywood Week in Paris, said price was everything and the African consumer wanted to pay “as little as possible” to watch a film.
“Even iROKOtv, the pioneer on the continent, doesn’t really make a profit,” he said.
“They have had a lot of success in fundraising but what subscribers actually bring in is less conclusive.”
Jason Njoku founded iROKOtv in 2010 but said he made a mistake to count on streaming from the start. “It simply couldn’t work,” he explained.
“Data costs were prohibitive, as is access to reliable broadband across huge swathes of the continent. Our customer service team was inundated with queries.
“We totally rebuilt our product and rebuilt our entire company around the African consumer and their habits.”
That led to an application that ate less data and which allows free mobile downloads of video files.
There is original content, while films have also been subtitled in French, Swahili and Zulu to make them more accessible to other African countries.
Competitors have emerged elsewhere in Africa in recent years, including Kenya’s BuniTV ($5-a-month) or South Africa’s Magic Go ($8-a-month).
“If these online platforms don’t make money yet they’re a bet on the future for when connections are better,” said Noukoue.
“A lot of projects have been created but there will not be room for everyone in the market in the long term. Competition will be fierce.”
Giants of the sector such as Netflix, which in 2016 launched in Africa, could outshine the continent’s video-on-demand pioneers in years to come.
“Netflix doesn’t yet have a real Africa strategy but it’s started to produce original African content. That will be a gamechanger.
“It has considerable means at its disposal that the others don’t have.”