Women & People of Color Star in Films More in 2019 Than Anytime in Past 13 Years

Captain Marvel
Credit: Marvel Studios

Starring roles on film for women and people of color were more prominent in 2019 than at any point in the preceding decade, according to a new study from the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (via Variety).

Annenberg analyzed the top 100 films of 2019 by box office take (excluding streaming films from its calculations) and then counted the number of women and people of color in lead roles in those films. Their analysis concludes that 31 of these top 100 films featured “a lead or co-lead actor from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group,” while 43 of those films featured women in lead roles, 16 of whom are women of color.

By these metrics, women and people of color are more present on film than at any point in the last 13 years. Extrapolating their data out over 1300 box office films released in 2019, Annenberg states people of color held 17% of starring roles, while 29% featured women in leading roles.

However, the numbers also come with some caveats.

Roles for older women, over age 45, are down to just three in 2019 from 11 in 2018 - and, as Annenberg project lead Stacy L. Smith points out, the percentage of women and people of color in leading roles on film is less than reflective of real world demographics, where women make up 51% of the United States' overall population, and 39% of the population is comprised of people of color.

Disney grossed the highest box office take from films with women or people of color in the lead (including voice actors) - notably Captain Marvel, Frozen 2, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Disney earned $4.1 billion from films featuring women, and $2.7 billion from films starring people of color. These numbers do not include ensemble films such as Avengers: Endgame, which will be factored into future studies, according to Variety.

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