It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top Grossing Films of 2019
The 2019 It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World Report
The percentage of top grossing films featuring female protagonists rose from 31% in 2018 to 40% in 2019, reaching a recent historic high. 43% of films featured male protagonists, and 17% had ensembles or a combination of male and female protagonists. The percentages of females appearing as major characters and speaking characters remained relatively stable. In 2019, females accounted for 37% of major characters, up just 1 percentage point from 36% in 2018, and 34% of all speaking characters, down 1 percentage point from 35% in 2018. Regarding race and ethnicity, the percentage of Black females in speaking roles declined slightly from 21% in 2018 to 20% in 2019. The percentage of Latinas increased slightly from 4% in 2018 to 5% in 2019. 7% of all female characters were Asian, down 3 percentage points from 10% in 2018, but even with the percentage achieved in 2017. Female characters were more likely than male characters to have a known marital status (46% vs. 34%). A larger proportion of male than female characters had an identifiable occupation (73% vs. 61%), and male characters were more likely than female characters to be seen in their work setting, actually working (59% vs. 43%). Females comprised 26% of leaders and were most likely to be leaders in professional jobs and social groups. Films with at least one woman director and/or writer were more likely than films with no women in these roles to feature higher percentages of females as protagonists, in major roles, and as speaking characters.
The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2019
In 2019, the percentages of behind-the-scenes women working on the top 100 and 250 (domestic) grossing films increased, reaching recent historic highs, while women’s employment on the top 500 films remained stagnant. Women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films in 2019, up from 16% in 2018. Women working in these roles on the top 250 grossing films experienced a slight increase from 20% in 2018 to 21% in 2019. The percentage of women working on the top 500 films remained steady at 23%. Women accounted for 12% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films in 2019, up from 4% in 2018 and 8% in 2017. Women comprised 13% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2019, up from 8% in 2018, and up 2 percentage points from the previous high of 11% in 2017. The percentages of women directing top 100 and top 250 films reached recent historic highs in 2019. In contrast, women made up 14% of directors working on the top 500 films, down 1 percentage point from 15% in 2018. By role (on the top 250 films), women comprised 19% of writers, 21% of executive producers, 27% of producers, 23% of editors, 5% of cinematographers, 6% of composers, 40% of music supervisors, 9% of supervising sound editors, 4% of sound designers, 23% of production designers, 31% of art directors, 4% of special effects supervisors, and 6% of visual effects supervisors.
Boxed In 2018-19: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television
In 2018-19, the percentages of female characters on screen and women working in key roles behind the scenes increased on television. Across broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms, female characters comprised 45% of all speaking characters, up from 40% in 2017-18. Behind the scenes, women accounted for 31% of all creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and directors of photography. This represents an increase of 4 percentage points from 27% in 2017-18. By role, women made up 25% of creators, 30% of executive producers, 40% of producers, 35% of writers, 26% of directors, 21% of editors, and 5% of directors of photography. Programs with at least 1 woman creator and/or executive producer, employed higher percentages of women directors, writers, and editors, and featured more female characters, than programs with exclusively male creators and/or executive producers.
Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film, 2018-19
The percentages of women working as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, and editors on independent films reached historic highs in 2018-19. Women comprised 33% of directors, up 4 percentage points from 29% in 2017-18, and 32% of writers, up 6 percentage points from 26% in 2017-18. Women accounted for 37% of producers, up 1 percentage point from 36% in 2017-18, and 32% of executive producers, up 6 percentage points from 26% in 2017-18. Women made up 29% of editors, up 2 percentage points from 27% in 2017-18. Despite these gains, it is important to note that independent films employed more than twice as many men as women (68% vs. 32%) in key behind-the-scenes roles. The study provides employment figures for domestically and independently produced feature-length documentaries and narrative films screening from July 2019 through June 2019 at more than 20 high-profile U.S. festivals, including SXSW, AFI, and Tribeca. Indie Women is the most comprehensive and longest running study of women working in independent film available and has tracked over 80,000 credits on almost 8,000 films over the period from 2008 to 2019.
Thumbs Down 2019: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters
Thumbs Down is the most comprehensive and longest-running study of women’s representation and impact as film reviewers available. The report considers individuals working for print, broadcast, and online outlets in spring 2019 whose work also appears on the Rotten Tomatoes website. This year’s study found that women comprise 34% and men 66% of all film reviewers. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 32% in 2018. Men outnumber women in every job title category and type of media outlet considered. A larger proportion of films reviewed by women than by men feature female protagonists and have women directors. When reviewing films directed by women, female critics are more likely than their male counterparts to mention the name of the woman directing the film and to mention/discuss her filmography in a positive manner.
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.