Study shows industry loses $10B a year undervaluing Black-led projects

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Mckinsey study, Mckinsey & Company, Black-led films

An interesting new study from McKinsey & Company shows that Hollywood loses out on $10 billion in profit a year by choosing to undervalue Black-led projects across film and TV. More and more members of the entertainment industry have consistently rallied for greater inclusivity in Hollywood and the narrative from most studios and networks is that Black-led projects are completely financially viable in the long run. This study seems to indicate otherwise.

The study is the first of the company's to offer an integrated look into the film and TV industry and what they discovered, according to "Deadline", is that Hollywood could earn an extra $10 billion annually by addressing and dismantling the structural racism that pervades its overall environment. The company gathered its data by analyzing more than 2,000 films, as well as from interviewing professional writers, actors, directors, and producers. For the purpose of the study, the company also partnered with the BlackLight Collective which is a coalition of Black artists and executives in the media business. The research showed that Black-led projects receive much less funding than their white counterparts despite the fact that evidence proves that they tend to outperform other projects in terms of recouping their original investments.

In terms of positions of creative control, the study revealed that less than 6% of writers, directors, and producers of Hollywood films are Black and that 87% of television executives and 92% of film executives are white. The study also referenced a term called the "Black tax" in regards to finances and that refers to ways in which Black talent must pay out of pocket to ensure their projects see the light of day. Additionally, rising Black actors and actresses receive fewer opportunities when it comes to leading roles. On average, Black performers land about six starring roles while their white colleagues obtain nine.

I remember when former Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed in his book, "The Ride of a Lifetime", that a Marvel executive was against making Black Panther because they thought movies led by Black actors didn't perform well internationally. Iger wrote, "We had a chance to make a great movie and to showcase an underappreciated segment of America, and those goals were not mutually exclusive." Iger and Marvel producer Kevin Feige fought to get Black Panther made and Iger personally called Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter and told him to tell his team to stop putting up roadblocks to prevent the film from happening. The end result was a film that grossed $1.3 billion while also becoming a bit of a cultural movement because it truly was something that was unprecedented. That being said, even with a movie like Black Panther earning that much money, there is still some pushback from studios and networks in terms of back Black-led projects.

This isn't a problem that just ends with a project like Black Panther. Hollywood executives still fall back on the excuses of their bottom line despite the fact that audiences show time and time again, not only with their words but with their wallets, that inclusive storytelling is something that they really want. That's not to say that every film or TV project needs to be Black-led. Often is the case that some say Hollywood is just throwing Black-led projects a bone just to appease the masses and that's not the solution either. There needs to be a more organic way that these projects are developed. There needs to be more diversity at the top and more inclusivity within the talent. That's where more change can happen and I know that this is only one study but I think it has been proven on several occasions that Black-led projects can turn a profit that the studio is looking for. It's time to stop looking at this success as a pleasant surprise and more like an expected result.

Source: Deadline

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