According to new reports by CAA and tech firm Shift7, casting women as leads in films at all budget levels offers a significant box office boost compared with male-led films. In other words, comments sections aren’t always an accurate representation of real life.
Analyzing 350 films released between January 2014 and December 2017, the companies determined that 105 of them billed women first. And, across five budget categories, female-fronted titles out-grossed male-led rivals on average. In fact, the more expensive the film, the greater the margin: Among films costing $50 million to $100 million, the international box office for women-led films averaged $318 million, compared with $243 million for men. For the top budget category of $100 million and up, women-led titles raked in $586 million compared with $514 million for men.
It wasn’t just the presence of women in lead roles that made a difference, either. It seems that even talking about men too much affected the bottom line of a film. Along with the box office of female-led films, the research looked at the commercial performance of films that pass the Bechdel Test. Films that passed the test—which gauges whether a film has multiple women who speak to each other, on screen, about topics other than men— outperformed films that flunked it, the study found. Since 2012, all films to pass $1 billion in global box office have passed the Bechdel Test.
“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” says Amy Pascal, one of the working group’s heads and the former chairman of Sony Pictures. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.” CAA’s Christy Haubegger adds, “Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films led were generally less successful. We found that the data does not support that assumption.”