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If the Message Still Isn’t Clear: Diversity (Like Greed) Is Indeed Good. The Future Says So…

If the Message Still Isn't Clear: Diversity (Like Greed) Is Indeed Good. The Future Says So...

If the “diversity (like greed) is good” message isn’t crystal clear at this point, for content creators, then they haven’t been paying attention. 

“Furious 7” – the seventh film in one of the most diversely-cast tent-pole movie franchises in Hollywood history – took the weekend’s box office title, raking in over $140 million domestically, the strongest debut for any movie since “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in November 2013 ($158 million), en route to a global box office take of $384 million, that ranks it as the 4th best of ALL TIME!

And according to the distributor of the film, Universal, 75 percent of the audience in North America was non-white, with Hispanics making up the majority of ticket buyers at 37%, followed by white (non-Hispanics) at 25%, black/African American at 24%, Asians at 10% and *other* at 4%.

But this is in line with previous “Fast & Furious” movies, so this isn’t news that should shock anyone, should it? A high profile movie with a diverse cast draws a large diverse audience! But of course!

“The importance of diversity of the ensemble cast in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise has been an integral part of the success of the brand,” said Rentrak box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “There is literally someone within the cast that is relatable on some level to nearly every moviegoer around the world, and this has paid big dividends at the box office and also in terms of how casting decisions will be made in the future for these types of large-scale action epics.”

Indeed! And it is that future that content creators should be mindful of. In addition to recently released studies by the UCLA Ralph Bunche Center that highlight a definite correlation between how diverse the casting of a film or TV series is, and how the project is received, Ad Age magazine has published today, its own “alert” (if you will) on what it calls “the new multicultural mainstream” and its impact on entertainment, advertising, food, sports, and more. By the way, Ad Age (or Advertising Age) is a leading global source of news and analysis for the marketing and media community.

Aptly titled “Tipping Point: The Majority Will Become the Minority by 2044,” on the subject of television advertising, the magazine states what we here have been screaming for a while now – that “diversifying the face of TV is not only the decent thing to do, but as broadcasters have discovered, it’s also good for business in a rapidly evolving America. Conscious efforts made by TV networks over the past year to be more inclusive in their programming have drawn big audiences and happy advertisers.”

And as Paul Lee, president, ABC Entertainment Group, said, “Our advertisers love it… The demographic changes in America are just as important and vital as the technology changes.”

Adding to that, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke chimed in with: “I am sick of the word ‘diverse’… Our kids don’t think about words like ‘diverse… [to them, it’s all] just mainstream.”

Ah, so diversity is the new mainstream! The so-called “minority” is no longer the neglected, unimportant *other* – but it’s “mainstream.” We have arrived folks! 

All said in jest of course… but you get the point.

And it’s only going to become even more important for content creators – specially those who aim to reach as wide an audience as possible; i.e. the new mainstream – to ensure that the content they create is inclusive, or face declining box office and/or ratings. 

Maybe it is indeed different this time, and we’re not in the middle of another cycle… another fad that will eventually pass.

Ad Age’s report includes the following key data on the rapidly changing makeup of the U.S. market; statistics that I’m sure you’re all already familiar with, even if only broadly. For content creators, here’s a snapshot of what you need to know about how various groups are growing – and shrinking – and how they’re spending money and consuming media.

In short, change is happening; in fact, change has been happening, and will only continue to do so, and at a relatively rapid pace. So make the necessary adjustments in what is a rather unforgiving business, if you’re a content creator. Granted the above data is considering the face of the USA in 2060, which is still 45 long years away, but, again, it’s something that’s already in motion. So it’s not as if we’ll wake up in 2060, and suddenly, poof, just like that, the so-called *minority* will be the new *majority*. It’s already happening, and I’m sure, for some on the other side (whites), it’s a very scary, scary proposition, which, some have argued, is what inspired articles like the recent Deadline piece questioning whether too much diversity is a good or a bad thing. Of course, we’re all aware with how that was received.

In essence, whether or not you believe diversity to be a positive or a negative, if you’re in the business of creating, distributing and exhibiting content, you likely bow to the alter of the almighty dollar, which will guide your decisions going forward. It’s a question of whether you want to be right, or whether you want to make money.

“Someone that I admire quite a lot recently said this is a franchise that really looks like America, and there are characters that everyone can relate to. I think that’s a big plus,” said Universal president of domestic distribution Nicholas Carpou, on the global box office success of the “Fast & Furious” franchise.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in 26 countries around the world, “Furious 7” delivered the biggest opening weekend of ALL TIME, including Mexico and Taiwan.

Of course there are other factors that contributed to the opening weekend box office for the movie – for example, the desire to see co-star Paul Walker one last time on the big screen; the actor died in a tragic car accident before principal photography was complete on the film. But one can’t ignore the fact that, as easily one of the most diverse casts for any specifically Hollywood tent-pole action movie franchise, the franchise becomes even more attractive to an even wider swath of the global theater-going audience. Besides, the last “Fast & Furious” movie (the 6th one) didn’t need any unexpected, galvanizing events to excel at the box office. The film grossed over $780 million worldwide, making it number 49 on the all-time worldwide list of highest-grossing films, in unadjusted dollars, and the 6th highest-grossing film of 2013.

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