Studies show that authentic cultural representations produce better financial returns

One of the biggest topics in modern Hollywood has been the desire to have more meaningful diversity in the film industry. Over the past few years, there have been a handful of big-budget blockbusters that have been shining examples of authentic cultural storytelling in cinema. Thanks to the University of California, Los Angeles, we now have proof that authentic cultural representations lead to better financial results.

According to Variety, the joint study by UCLA’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers and the Creative Artist Agency’s (CAA) Full Story Initiative investigated the impact of Authentic Inclusive Representation (AIR Score) on the box. -office. They also studied the effect it has on critical and audience reception. They found that the increase in AIR point meant an increase in revenue of $18.8 million on a film with a budget of $159 million or more. Big-budget movies also had the potential to earn an additional $75.2 million by boosting their AIR scores. Additionally, they found that critics and audiences were more supportive of films with higher AIR scores. Who would have thought that we would be more forgiving and kind to films that make an effort where it counts.

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Jokes aside, speaking of results, leader and co-head of cultural business strategy at CAA, Ruben Garcia said, “These results are consistent with what our industry has known for years – authentic and inclusive representation drives our communities and businesses forward.” Garcia went on to say, “We remain committed to using our place within the industry to inspire storytellers and industry partners to center inclusion around their work and elevate conversations around the positive impact of the air.” The AIR score does not only take into account the casting in front of the camera. It also takes into consideration who is behind the camera, such as the director and writers, as well as the type of story being told on the page.


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Founding Director of the Center for Scholars & Storytellers at UCLA, Dr. Yalda Uhls, added, “As our nation continues to diversify, we felt it was important to examine how movies reflect the world we live in.” Uhls ended by saying, “People of color currently make up over 50% of the box office audience for moviegoers under the age of 18. They of course want to see themselves accurately reflected and represented.”

The national landscape is very different from when the film industry began over 100 years ago. Art always imitates life, but for representation, that wasn’t really the case until recently. movies like Black Panther, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringsand Encanto have all shown moviegoers hungry for authentic portrayals in movies. Also, movies where you wouldn’t expect to find a healthy dose of authentic representation, like the last Scream, were major box office hits and critical successes. As this study proves.


While it seems obvious to the naked eye to correlate authentic cultural representations with success, it’s just nice to have data to back up this thought process. The film industry still has a lot of work to do in the diversity department and there are still modern films that promote harmful stereotypes, but we are moving in the right direction. One of the final key takeaways from this study is that films from 2015 to 2019 had overall better representation scores than films from the first half of the decade. For the full study results, you can visit their website.


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About the Author

James C. Tibbs