The Future of Movies Will Be More Latino
When Instructions Not Included, the Mexican breakout hit that quickly became the U.S.’s highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever, was released over Labor Day weekend in 2013, it was written about with mild surprise, the way that successful movies starring predominantly black casts are often categorized as unexpected hits. The movie debuted in fifth place with $10 million on the back of its social-media-savvy director-star Eugenio Derbez and did extremely well in Texas and California, both states with heavy Mexican populations.
It was a wonderful example of the power of one segment of the “Latino market,” which is a diverse collection of many different nationalities, as opposed to the single bloc that it is often portrayed as. Yet, at major Hollywood studios and production companies, Latino representation is shockingly low. We’ll cede the floor for a minute to Chris Rock, who addressed the issue in last week’s Hollywood Reporter cover story about race and the movie industry.
“You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that’s true? The odds are, because people are people, that there’s probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody’s company right now. The odds are that there’s probably a Mexican who’s that smart who’s never going to be given a shot. And it’s not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you’ve got to take that.” - Chris Rock
It’s a sad state right now, but the future of movies will be more Latino. Currently, Latinos make up 17 percent of the nation’s population and bought 25 percent of movie tickets in 2013. They make up a third of the nation’s frequent moviegoers, defined as people who attend movies at least once a month. Yet, in the last six years, only 4.9 percent of the characters in Hollywood’s biggest movies were Latino, according to a USC study released in August. Most projections say Latinos will make up 29 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.
Those are the kind of numbers studios notice. “It’s glacial, but it’s happening,” says Manny Alfaro, executive director of the Hispanic Organization of Latino Actors. Over the past several years, there are signs that Hollywood is including more Latinos, even if the statistics remain dire. Among those signs are increased marketing in Spanish-language media, major studio releases with heavy Latino casts and themes (Halloween’s animated The Book of Life, for example), and in at least one case, the hiring of an executive tasked with “focusing on projects driven by diverse filmmakers.”…