Despite Underrepresentation, Latinos Are the Most Powerful Audience, New Report Finds

Latinos in the film industry BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of BELatina.

When we talk about representation, we not only emphasize the fairness behind it but also the high consumption of audiovisual content by our community. In fact, according to a Motion Picture Association (MPA) study, Latinos, while they represent 19% of the population, accounted for 29% of movie tickets sold in 2020.

However, Latinos accounted for only 5.4% of movie leads and 5.7% of actors in any on-screen role that year, the annual report on diversity in Hollywood by the UCLA School of Social Sciences shows.

This underrepresentation is also found in behind-the-camera roles — including screenwriters, directors, and other jobs.

This trend continues even in difficult times for the world as a whole. According to the MPA, during the COVID pandemic, although the number of Latino moviegoers declined, our community continued to go to the movies at higher rates than other demographics.

Latinos had the highest per-capita attendance in 2021. They went to the movies an average of 1.7 times that year, compared to 1.3 times for white and black Americans and one for Asian Americans, according to another report by UCLA.

“Hollywood would benefit greatly from embracing 2020’s revelations about the bottom-line possibilities associated with major advances on the diversity front,” the UCLA report reads. “People of color already constitute more than 40 percent of the U.S. population, and their share is increasing by about half a percent a year – a trend that guarantees the growing importance of diverse audiences going forward.”

In fact, the report found that in 2020, people of color accounted for the largest share of opening weekend, domestic box office for six of the top 10 films (ranked by overall box office), and half of the box office for a seventh top 10 film. Similarly, households of color accounted for a disproportionate share of households that saw eight of the top 10 movies released via streaming platforms in 2020 (ranked by the total household audience).

Meanwhile, the top films in 2020, ranked by minority box office share and by household audience ratings for each minority group, underscore the fact that diverse audiences prefer diverse content. These market realities clearly justify Hollywood’s treatment of diversity as a “business imperative of the highest order.”

And for more good news, the UCLA report found that, like communities of color, women have made great strides in representation in the film industry.

Compared to their male counterparts, women have increased in four key employment areas: filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors. And like people of color, women essentially achieved proportional representation among lead actors (47.8 percent). However, they had to make up slightly more ground than their male counterparts among total actors (41.3 percent).

Similarly, films written or directed by women in 2020 had significantly more diverse casts than those written or directed by white men.