It's still a long way off equal representation, but 2016 saw the highest percentage of women in major blockbusters for quite some time.
A report by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that women made up 29% of protagonists in the Top 100 grossing films of 2016, up 7% from 2015 and marks a recent historical high. The data also shows that women comprised 32% of all speaking characters in films released in 2016, and that women accounted for 37% of major characters in films - up 3% from 2015.
Breaking down the data further, sole female protagonists were split between major studio films and independent films, with 52% appearing in the former and 48% in the latter. Comedy was the most common genre for women to appear in, making up 28%, whilst action films only accounted for 3%.
Age also played a larger role in the figures as well. According to the research, the majority of female characters were in their 20s and 30s and accounted for 23% and 32% of the characters women played. Meanwhile, 76% of all female characters were white, with Asian, Latino and Other making up 4% and 3% respectively.
Speaking to Variety, the author of the study, Dr. Martha Lauzen, said that when female characters are done well in films, "they make good box office." Rogue One, which featured Felicity Jones as the leader of a team of saboteurs, closed out its global box office with $.1048 billion in the bank. Smaller films with women in leading roles also made decent money, with Amy Adams' sci-fi drama Arrival making $195 million against a $44 million production budget.
However, Dr. Lauzen was less hopeful about the figures for women. "It is possible that this is something of a quirk that we will not see repeated in the future. It is also possible that introducing female protagonists is somehow an easier, less threatening fix than hiring women directors and writers."
Via San Diego University / Variety