Jenna Ortega and Latino representation in Hollywood
Latin Times/Courtesy Netflix

MIAMI - U.S. audiences increasingly prefer movies and series that accurately reflect the nation's diversity, according to the Latino Donor Center's U.S. Latinos in Media Report. This trend is particularly pronounced among Latinos, who actively support projects that resonate with their experiences and feature actors who look like themselves.

However, and even though Latinos make up 19.1% of the U.S. population, they are significantly underrepresented in the industry, holding just 3.6% of lead roles in television and 6% in film. The scarcity is even more acute for Latino-centric stories and for those working behind the camera. While there's a noticeable, albeit slow, increase in Latino presence in the audiovisual industry, the pace is not keeping up with the rapidly growing Latino population.

The financial implications are significant. A study within the report, conducted by the renowned firm McKinsey, shows Hollywood is incurring at an annual loss of $12 to $18 billion due to its underrepresentation of Latino stories and actors.

Studios and platforms with more Latinos

The original research was done by the Latino Donors Center, a think tank established by the Latino Donor Collaborative to produce independently funded research and analysis that showcases the economic contributions and value of U.S. Latinos.

The investigation revealed that Peacock is the streaming platform with more Latinos in front and behind the camera, aided by the fact that they carry Telemundo's programming.

Amazon's Prime Video tops the list when it comes to Latino actors leading its productions, with 14.8%. Disney had the most Latino directors, with 13.6%.

On the movie side, Paramount Pictures comes in first with 37.5% of leads, 15.6% of co-leads, and 12.5% of screenwriters. Columbia Pictures follows closely, with 20% of leads and co-leads. Angel Studios also has notable representation, with 18.8% of leads, 25% of screenwriters, and 25% of directors.

Bad behavior towards Latinos

"Despite making up only 6% of streaming leads and 7.2% of leads in Netflix original films, Latinos account for 20% of the leads in Netflix's global top 10 films. A similar trend can be seen in shows, where Latinos make up only 4.4% of streaming leads and 6.9% of leads in Netflix series but represent 20% of the top 10 shows," said the report.

One example is "Wednesday," led by Jenna Ortega, which is Netflix's most successful property of all time.

Also its Latino-led series "One Piece," featuring Iñaki Godoy in a leading role, claimed the top spot as the most in-demand streaming original series of the year. Its release in August saw it soar to unprecedented heights, surpassing the average demand by 52.8 times within its first month. In its first few days, it secured the top spot in 84 countries, beating the previous record held by "Wednesday" by just one country.

"This success underscores the growing appeal and influence of Latino-led content in shaping the streaming landscape," said the report.

Apple TV showed a lack of U.S. Latino talent strategy, with only 2.3% in co-leads and 0% in other categories. Discovery stood out with zero U.S. Latino representation in the positions analyzed in this report across all categories.

Cautious optimism

Despite a glaring lack of Latino representation, 2023 showed an encouraging change. Among the limited number of shows featuring Latino leads across various media platforms, 76.9% depicted them in positive roles. Similarly, in films, 95% portrayed Latino leads in positive roles.

Although only 6% of the entertainment industry's leading actors, 3% of its screenwriters, and 2% of its directors are U.S. Latinos, they represent 24% of ticket sales. Despite this underrepresentation, U.S. Latino talent is represented in 50% of the top 10 box office films as leads, co-leads, and directors, demonstrating their significant revenue-generating potential, something that's been acknowledged by Hollywood.

All numbers in the report show that accurately portraying Latinos in media is not merely about inclusivity; it's a strategic economic imperative for Hollywood's profitability.

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