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Movies starring women outperform male-led films, new study shows

Published Dec 16th, 2018 9:31AM EST
Movies with female leads
Image: REX/Shutterstock

Hollywood filmmakers looking to maximize their returns at the box office might be interested in taking a look at the results of a newly published study that analyzed the performance of 350 top-grossing movies released between 2014 through 2017. Splitting up the films between those starring women — where a woman is listed as the lead actor — and those starring men, it turns out that the female-led movies did better than their male counterparts at the global box office during that time span.

Examples include Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, which was released during the study period and raked in $821 million in global box office receipts. A sequel has already been teed up for 2020: Wonder Woman 1984.

Research for this study, which was inspired in part by the Time’s Up movement, was led by Creative Artists Agency and technology firm Shift7. The study broke down the 350 films it looked at into these budget levels: under $10 million; between $10 million and $30 million; between $30 million and $50 million; between $50 million and $100 million; and over $100 million. Not only did the study find that female-led films outperformed male-led films, butt the female-led films did so in every one of those budget categories.

Female-led movies actually did the best — beating male-led movies by the widest margin — in those higher budget categories. For example, in the category of films with budgets of $100 million and over, female-led titles brought in $586 million on average, compared to $514 million for male-led films.

Looking at films one category lower, with budgets between $50 million and $100 million, female-led films in that bracket brought in $318 million on average compared to $243 million for male-led titles. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this,” said Amy Pascal, the former chairman of Sony Pictures, according to Deadline.

Also worth noting about this study is that it analyzed the box office success of films that pass the so-called Bechdel Test, a measure of female representation in entertainment works that assesses whether a film has more than one woman in it and that they talk to each other about subjects other than men.

The analysis found that films which pass that test outperform films that don’t at the box office. Moreover, every film to pass $1 billion in worldwide box office sales since 2012 has passed the Bechdel Test.

Andy Meek
Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.