Black Panther has reached more than $700 million in global box office sales after only two weeks, thanks to majority Black audiences, Fortune reported. Yes, BP will be part of that $1 Billion club soon.
The film’s success showed that people of color are really driving blockbusters to success, a fact supported by a new study by UCLA’s Bunche Center released Tuesday.
Audiences of color accounted for the majority of ticket buyers for five of the top 10 films at the global box office in 2016, the study, appropriately titled “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” revealed. People of color represented half of the ticket buyers for two more of the top 10 in that year.
The UCLA study authors analyzed the top 200 theatrical film releases of 2016, including Fences and Hidden Figures, as well as 1,251 broadcast, cable and digital platform TV shows from the 2015-2016 season, the Chicago Tribune reported. They found the overwhelming support of films from diverse audiences helped movies make bank at the box office. In short, the study proved that Black audiences matter.
One researcher celebrated multicultural viewers as valued consumers of films.
“There has been some progress, undeniably. Things are not what they were five years ago,” said Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA’s Bunche Center, focusing 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.”
Though audiences have become more diverse, the behind-the-scenes world in Hollywood has remained, for the most part, whitewashed. The writers’ and showrunners’ rooms have lagged behind when it comes to diversity.
“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,” Hunt explained. “So you have these momentary exceptions to the rule.”
The power of diverse audiences should help to diversify those areas lacking the representation of people of color. It not only makes sense to make films and TV shows that embrace diversity and reflect the audiences that really support the entertainment industry, but it makes cents, period.