Latinos buy a fifth of all movie tickets but star in just 3 percent of all movies

Hispanic and Latino people make up nearly a fifth of the U.S. population yet account for a minuscule share of Hollywood movie roles, according to a newly published study.

That study, from USC Annenberg, found that of the top 100 grossing movies released between 2007 and 2018, just 3 percent had a Latino lead or co-lead. Women made up 49 percent of those lead roles.

“However, five of those 17 roles went to one female actress,” the report found. That actress was Cameron Diaz.

The report found that Diaz was among the most frequently hired Latino or Latina leads in Hollywood, along with Jennifer Lopez, Eugenio Derbez and Jessica Alba.

Though Hispanic and Latino people make up 18.3 percent of the U.S. population, and 39 percent of California’s population, just 4.5 percent of all movie speaking roles went to Hispanic or Latino actors, the report found.

Latino people were just as hard to find behind the camera. Out of 1,335 directing jobs, just 4 percent went to Hispanic or Latino people (48 men and one woman) while just 3 percent of 3,616 producing roles were held by Latino people (78 men and 19 women).

That comes despite the fact that Hispanic and Latino people account for more than a fifth, 23 percent, of all movie tickets sold, according to the report.

Often, Latino characters presented unflattering stereotypes. Out of the top-billed characters across 200 popular films, nearly a third of characters, 28 percent, were criminals, while 17 percent were portrayed as low income and 21 percent were depicted as temperamental or angry.

“Taken together, these findings reinforce not only the lack of employment opportunities for Latino actors, directors, producers, and casting directors, but the reality of a narrow range of stories and characters that individuals from this group inhabit on screen,” the report found.

The report contained several solutions, including calling on California lawmakers to create tax incentives for movie productions with Latino or Latina actors in lead roles.

“By providing support for these films, state and local governments can ensure that the pipeline is built, engages workers from their constituencies, and bring production to their communities,” the report said.

The full report can be read here.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.