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Diversity is on the rise at the multiplex.
African-Americans and Asians made gains in 2016 in terms of the number of trips they took to the theater, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, which on Wednesday released its annual report on moviegoing.
The uptick followed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in early 2016 and a concerted effort by Hollywood to showcase films with a more diverse cast.
Moonlight, a coming-of-age story about a young black man, won the Oscar for best picture last month in a surprise upset, while Hidden Figures, based on the story of three black female scientists who helped NASA put the first men into space, was a box-office hit. Hidden Figures and Denzel Washington’s Fences were also nominated for the Oscar for best picture alongside Moonlight.
MPAA chief Chris Dodd told reporters during a press call that such films are having an impact, but agreed there is a long way to go in terms of diversity behind and in front of the camera.
“A lot of this [audience growth] is a result of diversity in content. Look at the Fast and the Furious series. No one had any idea how big it would be. The cast of these movies represents the populations of the world. You see bigger returns on movies like that,” Fithian added.
Disney and Lucasfilm also made a point to feature a diverse cast in both Star Wars: A Force Awakens, opening in late 2015, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, released in December 2016.
According to the MPAA report, the number of frequent African-American moviegoers jumped 47 percent from 3.8 million in 2015 to 5.6 million in 2016, the highest number in recent memory. Another stat shows African-Americans buying 14 percent of all tickets sold, compared to 11 percent the year before.
The number of frequent Asian moviegoers also increased, from 3.2 million to 3.9 million. And in 2016, Asians made the strongest showing of any ethnicity group in terms of the share of tickets purchased (14 percent) relative to their share of the population (8 percent).
For years, Hispanics have over-indexed in terms of the share of movie tickets they buy, and are the largest segment of the moviegoing population after Caucasians.
The number of frequent Caucasian moviegoers declined from 19.3 million in 2015 to 18.3 million in 2016. And while this group still makes up the majority of all tickets sold, that share fell from 55 percent to 51 percent year-over-year.
Females also made a strong showing, fueling three of the top five grossing films at the North American box office in 2016, Finding Dory (55 percent), The Secret Life of Pets (54 percent) and The Jungle Book (52 percent). In 2015, only one female dominated-film landed in the top five, Inside Out.
Hollywood and theater owners also made gains in luring more millennials, with those between the ages of 18 and 24 going to the movies an average of 6.5 times in 2016, more than any other age group and up after a notable decline in 2015.
Among frequent moviegoers — who accounted for 48 percent of all tickets sold in 2016 — the only group that dipped were those between the ages of 40 and 49.
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