Study: Women-led films outperform male ones at box office

Films starring female leads consistently outperform male-led films at the box office, according to a new study released Tuesday by the gender equality organization Time's Up.

The study analyzed 350 of the top-grossing worldwide films released between January 2014 and December 2017. Of the films studied, 105 qualified as female-led and 254 as male-led.


Research found that films with various budget sizes performed better when a woman was in the starring role, meaning she was listed first in official press materials.

“This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen,” Amy Pascal, the former chairman of Sony Pictures, said in a statement. “Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”

Researchers also found that all 11 films which produced $1 billion at the box office between 2014 and 2017 — including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” "Jurassic World” and “Beauty and the Beast” — also passed the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel Test, created in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, rates a movie based on whether two female characters have a conversation on-screen about something other than a man.

Movies that cost more than $100 million to make grossed an average of $618 million worldwide at the box office if they passed the Bechdel Test, compared to the $413 million films made by films which flunked the standard. 

“Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films led were generally less successful,” talent agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA) agent Christy Haubegger said in a statement. “We found that the data does not support that assumption.”

The study, conducted by CAA and the tech company shift7, was led by a Time's Up working group.