Mar 31, 2022 - Economy

Latinos are crucial fans but underrepresented on-screen, research shows

The Hollywood sign on a mountain in Los Angeles

The Hollywood sign. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/ AFP via Getty Images

Although Latinos and other people of color are avid moviegoers, they are deeply underrepresented on-screen, two recent reports show.

The big picture: The first year of the pandemic ravaged the movie industry, with a 72% drop in ticket sales, but research shows that Latino, Black and Asian Americans helped keep it afloat.

By the numbers: Latinos, who make up 19% of the population, accounted for 29% of movie tickets sold in 2020, according to a study by the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

  • But Latinos accounted for only 5.4% of movie leads and 5.7% of actors in any onscreen role that year, the annual Hollywood Diversity Report by the UCLA social sciences college shows.
  • They were underrepresented as writers, directors and other behind-the-scenes jobs as well.
  • MPA also found that although the number of Latino moviegoers dropped off in 2020, they still went to the movies at higher rates than white, Black and Asian Americans.
  • Latinos had the highest per capita attendance in 2021. They went to the movies an average of 1.7 times that year, compared to 1.3 times for white and Black Americans and one for Asian Americans, the MPA report shows.

Zoom out: The data also shows that people of color often go watch movies on opening weekend, helping drive movie ticket sales up during a crucial time, says Ana-Christina Ramón, co-author of the Hollywood Diversity Report.

  • People of color accounted for the majority opening weekend ticket sales for six of the top 10 films that were released in theaters in 2020, the UCLA report finds.
  • Ramón said this is important “because it highlights the fact that (Latinos) are very much avid entertainment consumers. They’re not passive consumers. They want to see the best movie, they want to see the number one movie the weekend it comes out.”

The bottom line: "The Latino audience really sees going to the movies as an important ... and very affordable form of entertainment" for the entire family, Ramón says.

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