Box office records were broken in 2018, a year that also saw a record number of total films released theatrically — 776 (excluding re-releases and anniversary runs), according to Box Office Mojo. Approximately 115 of those came from the six major Hollywood studios (plus MGM and Lionsgate) and their subsidiaries, including the year’s number one earner, “Black Panther,” which was one of the roughly 20% of 2018’s top 100 films directed by a filmmaker of color.
As a new study from USC Annenberg, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair,” reveals, 2018 did mark key milestones with regards to matters of diversity behind the camera – most notably, that the year saw a historically high percentage of black directors helming top movies. However, there is still much progress to be made.
As Hollywood finds itself pressured to bring about genuine, irreversible change, industry output over the next several years will continue to face close scrutiny. Looking ahead, IndieWire has taken an early snapshot of racial and ethnic diversity “in the director’s chair” at the studio level, as it pertains to the next two years. That picture doesn’t suggest any marked improvement over 2018, with about 24 out of a total of 178 studio films set for release in 2019 and 2020 directed by filmmakers of color.
Of course both figures could change, as studios shift release dates, announce and fast-track new projects, replace directors, and so on. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that any changes will have a drastic effect on the current numbers.
Also worth noting is that there are several “Untitled” projects that have been dated, but remain mysterious, because the studios behind them have kept specifics about each (notably crew and cast) under wraps. So it’s possible that a number of the “Untitled” will be assigned to directors of color. However, given the lack of information at this time, those projects were not considered for this snapshot.
Most glaring on the list is Disney’s total absence, although the studio has slated a total of seven “Untitled” projects set for release in 2019 through 2020 — a good number of them being Marvel movies. But it would be only speculation at this juncture to say how many of them might be helmed by directors of color.
Meanwhile, Universal boasts as many as 10 films over the two-year period set to be directed by filmmakers of color.
Finally, the majority of the films on the list feature leads who are also of color, continuing a trend highlighted by the USC Annenberg’s annual report, which analyzed 1,100 movies theatrically released between 2007 and 2018. This inclination to hire directors of color primarily for films with leads of color often leads to a “matching” the racial or ethnic background of the director, and it can limit how often these filmmakers work.
The following is the full list of studio films directed by filmmakers of color set for release in 2019 and 2020.
“Alita: Battle Angel,” Robert Rodriguez, February 14, 2019
“Breakthrough,” Roxann Dawson, April 17, 2019
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral Comedy,” Tyler Perry, March 1, 2019
“James Bond 25,” Cary Fukunaga, February 14, 2020
“Limited Partners,” Miguel Arteta, June 28, 2019
“Gemini Man,” Ang Lee, October 4, 2019
“Body Cam,” Malik Vitthal (Paramount Players), TBD 2019/2020
“The Intruder” (Screen Gems), Deon Taylor, May 3, 2019
“Men in Black: International” (Columbia), F. Gary Gray, June 14, 2019
“Bad Boys for Life” (Columbia), Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, January 17, 2020
“Glass,” M. Night Shyamalan, January 18, 2019
“Everybody Knows” (Focus Features), Asghar Farhadi, February 8, 2019
“Us,” Jordan Peele, March 15, 2019
“Little,” Tina Gordon Chism, April 12, 2019
“Queen & Slim,” Melina Matsoukas, November 27, 2019
“Fast & Furious 9,” Justin Lin, April 10, 2020
“Candyman,” Nia DaCosta, June 12, 2020
“Harriet” (Focus Features), Kasi Lemmons, TBD 2019/2020
NOTE: A pair of untitled projects from Will Packer Productions are set for November 8, 2019, and May 15, 2020, respectively. One of them is very likely Stella Meghie’s “The Photograph,” which the filmmaker revealed in a recent interview with IndieWire, is currently casting and will shoot in 2019. The other is a mystery, although Packer typically works with black directors, so odds favor a repeat here.
“Shaft,” Tim Story, June 14, 2019
“Just Mercy,” Destin Daniel Cretton, January 17, 2020
“The Untitled Birds of Prey Project,” Cathy Yan, February 7, 2020
“In the Heights,” Jon Chu, June 26, 2020
This article has been updated.