The Motion Picture Association of America puts out a report each year about movie attendance. Of particular interest in their most recent report is that the numbers show strong upward growth in African-American movie viewers. This fits into the overall trend of a more ethnically diverse movie audience. Caucasians now make up the smallest per capita segment of American movie audiences.
The number of frequent African-American moviegoers shot up to 5.6 million, almost twice as many as the previous year. MPAA defines a frequent moviegoer as attending at least one movie per month. This makes the African-American audience 15% of frequent moviegoers, despite comprising only 12% of the US population.
The trend may be explained by recent increases in black representation in the movies. More African-American stories are starting to be told, often to great commercial success. There are also more African-American actors and directors getting the chance to showcase their talents. These films are starting to get more recognition as well. This year, Hidden Figures, Loving, Fences, and of course Moonlight, all received critical acclaim, various award nominations, and some huge award wins. In fact, 2017 was a record year for black Oscar nominations. Of course, there’s still room for improvement but this year’s trends were welcome and overdue. Should the trend continue, the per capita numbers of African-Americans attending movies is likely to continue on an upward path.
Other demographic trends revealed in this year’s MPAA report include a huge jump in per capita attendance in the Asian/Other segment and a continued strong showing of women at the box office. Additionally, the top five grossing films in 2016 attracted majority-female audiences and majority non-white audiences.
The annual MPAA report provides valuable data that shows the decision makers in the industry that it’s worth investing in films with diverse talent both on-camera and behind the camera. If 2017’s film offerings are as least as diverse as 2016, next year’s numbers are likely to be as good or better.
Another recently released report by the Creative Artists Agency only drove home the point. CAA proved wrong the stale argument that movies with diverse casts just don’t do as well. “At every budget level, a cast that is at least 30% non-white outperforms a release that is not, in opening weekend box office,” they told HuffPost. Money talks, so we hope that more Hollywood executives start listening!