04/02/2014 03:34 pm ET | Updated Apr 02, 2014

Films That Pass The Bechdel Test Actually Make More Money


Even though most moviegoers are female, Hollywood still seems to have a major woman problem. Whether it's directing, writing or acting -- roles for women are blatantly disproportional to their representation in audiences, not to mention the world. According to a new study however, keeping women on the sidelines has no financial benefits (surprise, surprise).

To challenge the persistent assumption that “women will go to a ‘guy’s movie’ more easily than guys will go to a ‘woman’s movie'" (as producer Michael Shamberg put it), FiveThirtyEight examined 1,615 films released between 1990-2013. The analysis considered the relationship between the number and importance of female roles in a film and that film's budget and profits.

Using the Bechdel Test, which rates a movie's gender bias on three criteria (the movie has more than one named female character, these women talk to one other and discuss topics other than men), FiveThirtyEight found that the median budget of Bechdel Test-passing films was significantly lower (35 percent) than the median budget of other films. Furthermore, debunking the myth that women-featured films are not profitable, the data showed that the films that passed the Bechdel Test actually made more money at the box office than those that didn't ($2.68 per each dollar spent on a passing movie compared to $2.45 per each dollar spent on a failed movie).

This means that Bechdel Test-passing movies not only cost less to make, but actually gross more and have a better overall return on investment than films that leave women out of important roles and story lines. Sounds like a win-win to us.

Producers are catching on -- but slowly. FiveThirtyEight's research also showed that, while the number has recently plateaued, more films are passing the Bechdel Test than ever before. Female-dominated films such as "The Hunger Games," "Divergence" and top-selling box office hit "Frozen" are slowly establishing women-featured movies as a norm in mainstream Hollywood.

So, Hollywood, not only will you make more money featuring women in your films, you'll also start depicting women as they truly are: multi-dimensional people. When it comes to the women problem, it's time to let it go.

[h/t The Cut]


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