Our Latest Study
Thumbs Down 2016: Top Film Critics and Gender
This study considers 5,776 reviews written by 247 “top critics” on the popular film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes during spring 2016. Findings indicate that women comprised 27% and men 73% of the top critics. Women wrote 24% and men 76% of the reviews during the study period. Men outnumbered women in every job title category considered, including as film critics, staff writers, and freelancers. Reviews written by men also outnumbered those written by women in every type of publication considered, and in every film genre. The top critics reviewed higher proportions of films featuring protagonists of their own sex. As a result, films with male protagonists receive greater visibility than films with female protagonists. However, on average, male and female reviewers did not differ in the quantitative ratings (e.g., stars, reels, grades) they awarded films featuring female protagonists.
Women in Independent Film, 2015-16
This study provides behind-the-scenes employment figures for domestically and independently produced feature-length documentaries and narrative films screening at 23 high profile film festivals in the United States including AFI Fest, Sundance Film Festival, and SXSW Film Festival. Women are much more likely to work on documentaries than on narrative features. For example, women comprised 35% of directors working on documentaries versus 19% of directors on narrative features. Women remain far from achieving parity with men at festivals. The festivals considered screened an average of 5 narrative features directed by at least one woman versus an average of 18 narrative features directed exclusively by men. The festivals screened an average of 8 documentaries directed by at least one woman compared with an average of 16 directed exclusively by men. Overall, women accounted for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. These numbers represent little change in women’s employment since 2008-09 when women accounted for 24% of individuals in these roles.
It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2015
In 2015, females comprised 22% of protagonists, 18% of antagonists, 34% of major characters, and 33% of all speaking characters in the top 100 domestic grossing films. The percentages of female characters of color were largely unchanged, with a slight increase in Black female characters (from 11% in 2014 to 13% in 2015), no change in the percentage of Latina characters (4% in 2014 and 2015), and a slight decrease in the percentage of Asian female characters (from 4% in 2014 to 3% in 2015). Further, female characters of color were less likely than White females to be major characters. 27% of Black, Latina, Asian, and females of other races/ethnicities were major characters, whereas 38% of White females were major characters.
The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2015
Women comprised 19% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2015. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 2014 but is even with the figure from 2001.
In 2015, women accounted for 9% of directors, up 2 percentage points from 2014 but even with the figure from 1998. In other roles, women comprised 11% of writers, 26% of producers, 20% of executive producers, 22% of editors, and 6% of cinematographers.
Women and the Big Picture: Behind-the-Scenes Employment on the Top 700 Films of 2014
Women comprised 20% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on the top 700 theatrically released films in 2014 (foreign films omitted). This figure is slightly higher than the 17% working on the top 250 films. By role, women accounted for 27% of producers, 21% of executive producers, 18% of editors, 13% of writers, 13% of directors, and 9% of cinematographers. Films with women directors employed substantially higher percentages of women in other key behind-the-scenes roles than films with exclusively male directors. The study found similar results when women comprised at least one-third of executive producers and producers.
Boxed In: Portrayals of Female Characters and Employment of Behind-the-Scenes Women in 2014-15 Prime-Time Television
In 2014-15, women comprised 42% of all speaking characters on broadcast television programs and 40% of all characters on the broadcast, cable, and Netflix programs considered. Behind the scenes, women accounted for 27% of creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography working on broadcast programs and 25% of those working in these key roles on broadcast, cable, and Netflix programs. Programs with at least one woman executive producer or creator featured a higher percentage of female characters and employed substantially greater percentages of women writers, directors, and editors than programs with exclusively male executive producers or creators.
Gender @ the Movies: On-line Film Critics and Criticism
This study examined over 2,000 reviews penned by 145 writers designated as “top critics” on Rotten Tomatoes over a two-month period in the spring of 2013. Findings indicate that top male critics wrote 82% and top female critics 18% of the film reviews featured on the film review aggregator site. 78% of the top critics writing during the study period were male, 22% were female. While film critics reviewed higher proportions of films directed and/or written by individuals of their same sex (giving films made by men greater visibility), on average, critics did not privilege those films by writing longer reviews or awarding them substantially higher ratings.
The Celluloid Ceiling II: Production Design, Production Management, Sound Design, Key Grips, and Gaffers
For over a decade, The Celluloid Ceiling study has tracked women’s representation as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on the top 250 domestic grossing films. In an effort to assess the larger picture of women’s employment in film, this study monitored their representation as production designers (20%), production managers/production supervisors (25%/44%), sound designers/supervising sound editors (5%/5%), key grips (1%), and gaffers (1%).
The study analyzed behind-the-scenes employment of 1,318 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2008 with combined box office grosses of approximately $9.4 billion.
Women @ the Box Office
This study asked two basic questions: how do films with at least one woman working in a key behind-the-scenes role fare at the box office when compared to those employing only men in the same roles, and how do films featuring female protagonists fare at the box office when compared to those featuring males.
Examining the top 100 worldwide grossing films of 2007, the study found that when women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting box office grosses are also similar. In other words, the sex of filmmakers does not determine box office grosses.
In addition, when the size of the budget is held constant, films with female protagonists or prominent females in an ensemble cast earn similar box office grosses (domestic, international, opening weekend) and DVD sales as films with male protagonists. Because films featuring male protagonists have larger budgets, they earn larger box office grosses. However, the differences in box office grosses are not caused by the sex of the protagonist but by the size of the budget. Films with larger budgets generate larger grosses, regardless of the sex of the protagonist.