This image released by A24 shows director Lulu Wang, left, on the set of “The Farewell.” Women directed 12 of 2019’s top 100-grossing films in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Female filmmakers. (Casi Moss/A24 via AP)

This image released by A24 shows director Lulu Wang, left, on the set of “The Farewell.” Women directed 12 of 2019’s top 100-grossing films in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Female filmmakers. (Casi Moss/A24 via AP)

Study finds 2019 was a ‘banner year’ for female filmmakers

It’s the most meaningful increase in several decades for female director

Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Melina Matsoukas and Greta Gerwig led Hollywood to a record year for women in the director’s chair. In 2019, women directed more of the most popular movies than any year before.

Women directed 12 of 2019’s top 100-grossing films in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That percentage of female filmmakers, 10.6%, is greater than researchers have recorded before, suggesting that some measure of change is finally coming to a film industry where inequality behind the camera has remained stubbornly persistent.

It’s the most meaningful increase in several decades for female directors. Despite mounting outcry, the rate of female directors helming Hollywood’s top productions has long been largely stagnant. The previous high in USC’s annual study was 8%, in 2008. In 2018, only 4.5% of the year’s top films were directed by women.

“This is the first time we have seen a shift in hiring practices for female film directors in 13 years,” said Stacy L. Smith, one of the study’s authors. “One notable reason for this jump in 2019 was that Universal Pictures had five films with women directors at the helm in the top 100 movies. Yet there is still much more progress needed to reach parity for women behind the camera.”

The high-profile success of several films had already made 2019 a historic one for women. Those include Wang’s “The Farewell,” one of the year’s most popular indie releases, Scafaria’s acclaimed “Hustlers” ($105 million domestically), Matsoukas’ “Queen & Slim” ($40.7 million) and Gerwig’s “Little Women,” which last week opened strongly with $29 million in its first five days of release.

“Frozen II,” with $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, is close to setting a new box-office record for a movie directed by a woman. Jennifer Lee, who co-directed the film, set the record with the first “Frozen” film. In 2018, Lee became the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Other notable films included Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet,” Tina Gordon’s “Little” and Jill Culton’s “Abominable.”

ALSO READ: Canadian TV, film industry making progress on gender, but not race: study

USC researchers singled out Universal Pictures, which put forward a slate of films with 26% directed by women. Universal is the only major studio with a female studio chief, Donna Langley.

Netflix also fared well. While the streaming company’s films largely bypass theatres — leaving them outside the study’s parameters — 20% of Netflix’s 2019 movies were directed by women.

Paramount Pictures, however, hasn’t released a movie directed by a woman in the last five years.

Four women of colour directed one of the top 100 movies in 2019, though the overall statistics for underrepresented directors dipped. Underrepresented filmmakers were behind 16.8% of films in 2019, a decline from last year’s 21.4%, a record.

“While 2019 is a banner year for women, we will not be able to say there is true change until all women have access and opportunity to work at this level,” said Smith.

Despite the gains, female filmmakers have been largely overlooked in this awards season. Sunday’s Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, includes no women nominated for best director. None of the 10 films nominated for best picture were directed by women, either.

Rebecca Goldman, Time’s Up chief operating officer, said those results were unacceptable.

“This year, there have been twice as many women-led features than ever, with more films by female directors on the way,” Goldman said. “Women — and especially women of colour — continue to be pushed to the sidelines by a system that holds women back, onscreen and off.”

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is the largest protected area in southeastern B.C. Photo: B.C. Parks
Province adds land to Valhalla and Purcell parks

Both additions enhance the parks’ ecological values, the province says

RCMP responded to a report early Friday morning of a suspect firing a gun at a Salmo home. Photo: Black Press
RCMP arrest woman who fired shots at Salmo home

The woman allegedly discharged a firearm early Friday morning

Nelson is holding a municipal by-election to replace former councillor Brittny Anderson, who resigned in December. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson by-election nomination deadlines set

Candidacies must be registered between Feb. 9 and Feb. 19

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read