The Hollywood Reporter reported on a recent study from Slated, analyzing 1,591 features since 2010. The Slated study found that films with women in key roles (director, producer, writer, star) had a higher average return on investment, despite having an average of 25% smaller budgets — except in the category of films under $25 million. Investigating the exception of lower-budget films revealed that women-helmed films in this category tended to be shown on only a third as many screens.
The study examined genre to see if it contributed to the lower performance of women in the under $25 million budget category. They adjusted for the fact that in every genre, men directed more films than women, and found that the choice of genres by both men and women directors were synchronous. However, men had a higher consistent return on investment across genres, suggesting, according to the study, that if the number of women directors increased, they would gravitate toward each genre’s mean.
The most significant quantifiable variable was the number of screens the films play on. As seen in the infographic below, the gap between men and women-helmed films was greatest in the category of films under $25 million, with women-helmed films receiving 63% less distribution.
The “trust gap,” according to the study, is an institutional bias that affects the lifecycle of a movie from development, where women are given smaller budgets, all the way through to distribution, with women-helmed films playing on a smaller number of screens.
Slated CEO Stephan Paternot concluded: “People are making more money off of women’s films than they are off of men’s films. Women are crushing it, but nobody knows this. That’s the joke. Everybody thinks if you bet on women, you lose. But the data is saying, if you’re really in this just to make a return on your capital, you should be betting on women.”