Both The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary's University (the “Institute”) and Movio have published extensive research on the topic of representation in media. Movio has traditionally focused specifically on the theatrical exhibition sector and audience data, whereas the Institute primarily captures on-screen data and analysis. Our organizations therefore share an interest in studying the intersection of on-screen data and audience data. In other words:
How does what’s shown on screen affect who shows up in the audience?
While both the Institute and Movio have explored this subject in the past, doing so independently (limited by our unique data specialities) prohibits the ability to examine the “on-screen to audience relationship” at a meaningful scale.
To produce a macro view of the correlations between content and audience, we’ve joined forces, combining our data sets to enable a comprehensive analysis across hundreds of titles.
We wanted to know:
• Does the presence of certain groups (Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Age) on screen draw larger numbers of the corresponding audience? Read more
• What negative or positive portrayals of certain groups are different viewers seeing in the most popular films? Read more
• What portrayals of certain groups are child viewers seeing in the most popular films? Read more
• There does seem to be a correlation between the representation of various demographic cohorts* on screen and their share of the total audience to a particular film
• The relationship seems to be stronger for Race/Ethnicity cohorts than Age or Gender cohorts, where a higher percentage of characters of a given Race/Ethnicity on screen results in a higher percentage of moviegoers of the same Race/Ethnicity in the audience
• Within Race/Ethnicity it does seem to be most apparent for the Black cohort than other Race/Ethnicity cohorts
• It does not appear that there is any evidence that the relationship is impacted by whether or not the group represented on screen is portrayed in a way that could potentially be considered negative (crime, lazy, visually objectified)
• Looking at representation among films that moviegoers are bringing their children to see, there is significant under representation of Racial/Ethnic minorities in these storylines (Asian's and Latinx being particularly underrepresented), relative to what we might expect given the prevalence of these groups in the overall US population
• If we focus on gender we see that both Male and Female leads are roughly evenly split in terms of on-screen representation for films with more child visits. This suggests that young moviegoers are getting a fairly balanced representation of genders, when we consider leads, in their on screen media consumption. It is worth noting there is still big gender gaps when we consider supporting, minor and overall characters.