Female Characters are Profitable

Frozen from Disney

Results from a large study by FiveThirtyEight show that having meaningful female characters in a film can be as profitable for filmmakers as the male led films.

In a report at The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood’s Exclusion of Women, FiveThirtyEight details how they conducted the study and the results. The measurement used in the survey, imperfect though it is, is the Bechdel Test. To pass the Bechdel Test, a film must,

  • have two named women
  • the women have a conversation with each other
  • the conversation isn’t about a male character

In the study, FiveThirtyEight, “analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits.”

Here are some of their findings.

More films pass the Bechdel test now than in the past. They illustrate this information in this chart.

Films passing the Bechdel test over time
Films passing the Bechdel test over time

Films that do pass the Bechdel test often have lower budgets that the big money films featuring only male casts. However, the study found, “The total median gross return on investment for a film that passed the Bechdel test was $2.68 for each dollar spent. The total median gross return on investment for films that failed was only $2.45 for each dollar spent.”

Dollars earned for dollars spent
Dollars earned for dollars spent

The fact is, women in a film with meaningful roles beyond being something pretty on the arm of the male lead can bring in the dollars.

I urge you to read the complete report, because there’s a lot more to it than my quick summary here.

Frozen image ©Disney

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