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Female-led movies outperform male-led films at box office, study reveals

By Peter Sblendorio • Dec 12, 2018 at 7:00 PM

Female-led movies do better at the box office than films centering on male leads, regardless of the size of the budget, a new study revealed.

Based on research by the talent agency CAA and the tech company shift7, the study found that movies with a woman as the top-billed cast member outperformed global box-office averages between 2014 and 2017.

The research looked at the 350 highest-grossing films from that four-year stretch and split them into five categories based on budget size: over $100 million, between $50 million and $100 million, between $30 million and $50 million, between $10 million and $30 million, and under $10 million.

In each section, the female-led movies outperformed the male-led flicks.

“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on the screen,” said Amy Pascal, the former chairman of Sony Pictures who led the study. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”

The study looked at who Gracenote — an entertainment data company under the Nielsen umbrella — listed as the top-billed cast member for each of the 350 films in the study. Of the movies included, 105 were female-led, while 245 were male-led.

Among the highest-grossing movies from the time period were “Beauty and the Beast,” “Finding Dory” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

The highest-grossing film of that stretch, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” was considered a male-led film due to the placement of Harrison Ford’s name on the billing, despite Daisy Ridley’s central role in the movie.

The 11 movies that grossed over $1 billion between 2014 and 2017 each passed the Bechdel test, which looks into whether a film features at least two female characters who speak to each other about something other than a man.

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