Rene Weber and Colleagues Apply Communication Research to Assess Inclusion, Diversity, and Financial Success of Hollywood Films

Here is another contribution of UCSB's Department of Communication and its Media Neuroscience Lab to matters of Inclusion and Diversity. To download the report The Ticket to Inclusion: Gender & Race/Ethnicity of Leads and Financial Performance Across 1,200 Popular Films (Smith, Weber, Choueiti, Pieper, Case, Yao, Lee) click here.  For a HollywoodReporter news article, click here. For a New York Times story, click here.

In this study, together with The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (@Inclusionists), WomenInFilm.org, and the ReFrameProject.org, we created and analyzed a unique dataset of 1200 popular films over the past 12 years. Among other things, we show that when taking production and distribution budgets into account as well as story strength, films with female and underrepresented leads perform just as well (or better!) as do those with white male leads. This is contrary to the "established wisdom" in Hollywood, which suggested that films with female or underrepresented minority leads would perform worse at the box office.

We hope that this (and future!) work will further contribute to making Hollywood a more inclusive and equitable place. Our ongoing scholarly work in this area, which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation (@templeton_fdn), is focusing on the important concept of story strength and its interactions with various inclusion and diversity dimensions. We are using the Media Neuroscience Lab's Moral Narrative Analyzer (MoNA) platform for this purpose. With MoNA we have developed sophisticated and innovative computational algorithms for the analysis of thousands of film scripts. MoNA combines these analyses with the evaluations of stories by a large crowd of people with a diverse background. If you like to learn more about MoNA, check this MoNA site.