Let's play a little game!
Try to find matching pairs of the nominees for the acting academy award of 2016!
Why was this so easy?
Because all the nominees for the acting academy award of 2016 were white.
So what is this about?
After in 2015 all 20 oscar acting nominations were awarded to white people, the #OscarsSoWhite hastag, criticising the lack of diversity and calling for changes in the film industry, went viral.
But should the film industry comply with these demands purely for ethical reasons, or does the film industry benefit from a more diverse cast also from a capitalistic point of view? To investigate whether a more diverse cast attracts a larger audience and thus achieves more financial success, we examine the box office revenue of the films in the “CMU Movie Summary Corpus” dataset. To avoid sparsity of data and to add further interesting features that go beyond the CMU dataset, we also add the “The Movies Dataset”. As a measure of diversity, we focus mainly on ethnicity, gender, and age. In particular, we are interested in whether moviegoers’ acceptance or rejection for movies with a more diverse cast has changed over the last 100 years. Since movies produced in the US have the biggest audience and make by far the most money, we’ll restrict our analysis to those movies.
And why should we care?
1) Financial reasons
The movie business is a multi-billion-dollar industry, therefore it would be very beneficial to know what sells and what does not.
2) Societal relevance
Diversity is one of the most controversial topics of our time. However, the discussions about this are mostly based on feelings and subjective impressions. An analysis based on data should lead to a more objective assessment of this contentious subject. And since movies can be seen as a reflection of their time, the results of our analysis could act as an indicator for changes and advancements in society over time.
This leads us to our research questions...
Let's talk about money:
In this paragraph we examine general changes regarding the movie industry over time. The following plot shows that the actual value of 1 US-dollar changed dramatically between 1900 and 2022. Therefore, we have to take inflation into account, to be able to compare the movie box offices across different decades.
With the inflation adjusted box office revenue shown in the next plot, it can be seen that the rise of revenue over time is not as significant as it initially seems.