Studies Show Authentic Cultural Depictions Yield Better Financial Returns

One of the biggest topics in modern Hollywood has been the push to have more meaningful diversity in the film industry. In the last few years there have been a handful of big-budget blockbusters that have been shining examples of authentic cultural storytelling in film. Now thanks to the University of California, Los Angeles we now have proof that authentic cultural depictions give way to better financial results.

According to Variety, the joint study done by UCLA’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers and the Full Story initiative at the Creative Artist Agency(CAA) researched the impact of authentic inclusive representation(AIR Score) on the box office. They also studied the effect it has on the critical and audience reception. They found that the AIR point increase meant a revenue bump of $18.8 million on a film with a budget of $159 million or more. High-budget films also had the potential of earning an additional $75.2 million by increasing their AIR scores. In addition, they found that both critics and audiences were more favorable toward films with higher AIR scores. Who knew we would be more forgiving and kind to films that actually put in an effort where it counts.


All joking aside, when talking about the results, executive and co-head of cultural business strategy at CAA, Ruben Garcia said, “These findings are consistent with what our industry has known for years – authentic, inclusive representation drives our communities and business forward”. Garcia would continue on saying that, “We remain committed to using our place within the industry to inspire storytellers and industry partners to center inclusion across their work, and to elevate conversations around the positive impact of AIR.” The AIR score does not just account for the cast in front of the camera. It also takes into consideration who is behind the camera like the director and writers as well as what kind of story is being told on the page.

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Founding Director of UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers, Dr. Yalda Uhls, added, “As our nation continues to become more diverse, we felt it was important to examine how movies reflect the world we live in.” Uhls finished off by saying, “People of color currently represent more than 50% of the box office audience for moviegoers under the age of 18. They, of course, want to see themselves accurately reflected and portrayed.”

The domestic landscape looks a lot different from when the film industry began over 100 years ago. Art always imitates life, but for representation that has not really been the case until recently. Films like Black Panther, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Encanto have all shown moviegoers craving for authentic portrayals in film. Also, films where you would not think to find a good amount of authentic representation, like the latest Scream, have been major box office and critical successes. Just like this study proves.

While it seems obvious to the naked eye to correlate authentic cultural depictions with success, it is just nice to have data to back that thought process up. 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 heading in the right direction. One of the last key things this study found is that films from 2015 to 2019 had better representation scores overall than films from the first half of the decade. For the full results of the study, you can visit their website.


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