Films Directed by Women Have Smaller Budgets, But Bigger Returns

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Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty

A new study, data from which was published by The Hollywood Reporter this morning, found that despite having smaller budgets and fewer resources, films directed by women more often had a bigger return on investment than those made by men.

The study comes on behalf of Slated, a film-financing hub. Slated looked at data from 1,591 feature films made between 2010 and 2015, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was nearly “every movie that was released theatrically on at least one screen in the U.S.” The study found that movies that were produced by, written by, acted in, or directed by women performed well above their expectations, despite having much less money to work with. Via The Hollywood Reporter:

This outcome was especially true for movies with budgets of more than $25 million, where female-penned projects tended to nearly quadruple their investment, with a best-in-show average 3.72 ROI. (Universal’s $40 million Fifty Shades of Grey, adapted by Kelly Marcel, notched a studio-high ROI of 12.14, while the highest overall ROI for a female-fronted film was 12.34 for Lynn Shelton’s $125,000 dramedy Your Sister’s Sister, which starred Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt.) Only one category showed financial loss — low-budget films directed by women, which averaged an ROI of 0.66.

Why would low-budget films have a loss in return on investment? Slated has the answer to that, too: It’s because the low-budget films, on average, were released on “only a third [of] as many screens that male-directed movies under $25 million received, a ratio of 242 to 646.” So women’s independent films saw a much smaller distribution rate than men’s.

Slated CEO Stephan Paternot told THR that the findings from their study prove a self-fulfilling cycle, one that keeps women out of the movie industry from the first place: “Women are being given fewer films, and not only is that true, but they’re having to make their movies with less money, so they’re doing it with one arm tied behind their back. That effectively puts less production value up on the screen, meaning movies with a little narrower scope,” he said. “And once the product is all made, assuming it’s as good despite having less money, it’s then handicapped by being shown on two-thirds fewer screens. Those movies just don’t get seen. So then there’s this ongoing perception that women just aren’t really into the movie industry, and if they do make stuff, it’s not quite as good.”