Monday 16 September 2019

Women strike back at box office: Actresses with top billing outperform better-paid men, says study


Star power: Box office stars like Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock have more drawing power than men according to a new study. Photo: Getty Images
Star power: Box office stars like Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock have more drawing power than men according to a new study. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Allen in Washington

Films featuring a woman in the lead role are outperforming those in which a male actor gets top billing.

The conclusion was reached by researchers who carried out an exhaustive study of the most popular 350 films released in cinemas around the world between January 2014 and December 2017.

In films with small, medium and large budgets, all averaged better global grosses at the box office when a woman was listed as the lead star.

The study was carried out by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the talent agency that represents many of Hollywood's biggest stars, men and women.

Christy Haubegger, an agent with CAA, said: "Women comprise half the box office yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films were generally less successful."

Ms Haubegger added: "We found that the data does not support that assumption. We have to find the economic opportunity in motion pictures, and consistently we see over-performance by films that have female protagonists."

Emma Stone was the best-paid actress, earning €23m
Emma Stone was the best-paid actress, earning €23m

The figures showed films were much more likely to be male-led. Of the 350 films in the study, 245 had a man in the lead role and only 105 featured a woman.

In blockbusters with a production budget greater than $100m (€88m) that disparity was even more marked - there were 75 male-led films and only 19 were female-led.

For the purposes of the research, "female-led" films were classified as those in which a woman was listed first in the credits and in official press materials.


The films were grouped in categories according to production budget, from those under $10m (€8.8m), to ones over $100m.

In each category it was found that the average box office takings for the female-led films were greater than for the male-led ones.

Among the successful female-led films were 'Wonder Woman', starring Gal Gadot, 'Trolls' featuring Anna Kendrick, and 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' starring Megan Fox.

Researchers also used the so-called Bechdel test to analyse the films.

The Bechdel test is a gender bias test assessing whether or not a film features two female characters having a conversation about something other than a man.

A total of 40pc of the films in the study failed it, including 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'Deadpool 2'.

Films which passed the Bechdel test made more money on average than those that failed it.

Amy Pascal, former chairman of Sony Pictures, said: "This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen. Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this."

Darnell Hunt, a Los Angeles-based sociology professor who writes the annual Hollywood diversity report, said: "Hollywood is leaving billions on the table because they aren't making films that are diverse in terms of gender."

Hollywood has already been embroiled in a controversy over pay disparities for male and female stars.

Last year Mark Wahlberg, the highest paid actor, made $68m (€60m) while Emma Stone, the highest-earning actress, earned $26m (€23m).

For 'All the Money in the World', Wahlberg was paid $5m (€4.4m) while his female co-star, four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, was paid $625,000 (€549,000). (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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