Movies with women are more profitable

The stats crowd at fivethirtyeight.com have a feature comparing the financial backing and success of films with their performance on the Bechdel test for the portrayal of women in films. Their findings show hope for a transformation in women’s portrayal in entertainment…so long as entertainment executives are paying attention to the numbers.

We found that the median budget of movies that passed the test — those that featured a conversation between two women about something other than a man — was substantially lower than the median budget of all films in the sample. What’s more, we found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t.

Comparison of the dollars earned for every dollar spent on US/Canadian vs. International films. The comparison is split into four categories: movies that passed the Bechdel test, movies where women only talk about men, those where women don't talk to each other and those with fewer than two women. The chart shows that on average, returns on American/Canadian films improve as films pass more codas of the Bechdel test ($1.37 dollars return for every dollar spent for those movies that pass the Bechdel test, compared with a direct 1:1 ration on return for those that have fewer than two women). The effect is absent for international films.

Cross reference of dollars earned for every dollar spent for international and US/Canadian films compared with the extent to which the film passes the Bechdel test.

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