Authentic cultural representations in movies are more profitable

Movies can get better reviews and higher box office receipts if their cultural portrayals are authentic and free of stereotypes, according to the University of California, Los Angeles and the Creative Artists Agency.

A joint study, led by the UCLA Center for Scholars and Storytellers and the CAA Complete Story Initiative, investigated the impact of authentic inclusive performance (measured as AIR scores) on box office receipts, critical reception, and audience. The study found that each increase in AIR points meant an increase in revenue of $18.8 million for movies with a budget of $159 million or more. In total, high-budget films could fetch up to $75.2 million more as their AIR scores rise, and audiences and critics respond more favorably to studio films with higher AIR scores.

“These findings are consistent with what our industry has known for years: authentic and inclusive representation drives our communities and businesses.”said Rubén García, executive and co-director of cultural business strategy at CAA. “We remain committed to using our place within the industry to inspire storytellers and industry partners to center inclusion in their work and to elevate conversations about the positive impact of AIR.”

In the last decade an effort has been made to improve these representations.

AIR scores can be improved through casting, creative teams, and storytelling. The study also found that movies from 2015 to 2019 had better representation scores overall than movies from the first half of the decade.

“As our nation continues to become more diverse, we felt it was important to examine how movies reflect the world we live in”said Dr. Yalda Uhls, founding director of the UCLA Center for Scholars and Storytellers. “People of color currently make up more than 50% of the box office audience for moviegoers under the age of 18. They, of course, want to see themselves accurately reflected and portrayed.”

The audiovisual landscape is very different from when the film industry began 100 years ago. Movies have always tried to reflect life, but for the representation of different cultures this has not been the case until recently. Movies like Black Panther, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Charm have shown audiences with authentic portrayals on film and movies where you wouldn’t think to find a lot of authentic portrayal, like the latest installment of scream, have been great box office and critical successes. As the study shows.

The study has a nonprofit advisory board that is made up of nonprofit organizations and cultural change leaders representing a wide range of social issues and historically underrepresented communities such as Amnesty International, Alzheimer’s Association, or NHMC: The National Coalition. of Hispanic Media among others. To view a full copy of the FSI AIR study, including more details on the methodology used, please visit