Movie theaters are getting a whole new audience in recent years — Hispanics. But is Hollywood doing right by Latino men and women?
According to The Motion Picture Association of America, Hispanics account for about 26 percent of sales at movie theaters — and that number is only increasing. Hispanics who frequent cinemas — defined as seeing a movie more than once a month — also grew to 32 percent of the total who buy tickets for movies, The Wrap reported.
They’re not just focusing on one genre, however. Entertainment Weekly noted that even though Hispanics used to frequent “horror and family flicks,” new trends show that they’re attending all kinds of movies — having boosted box office numbers considerably in recent months.
Why are Hispanics accounting for so much of the moviegoer total? Esther Cepeda of The Columbian wrote that a big reason for the increase in Hispanic women — and Hispanics overall — going to the movies is that they want to escape the troubles they face every day.
“Still, I'd bet that the mystery of the moviegoing Hispanic's love for big-budget action movies can be solved by understanding that the more people are stressed out by their lives — in the case of Hispanic women, their larger share of economic, social and health pressures — the more escapism they seek in their entertainment,” Cepeda wrote.
But this begs a corresponding question: Are Hispanics underappreciated and underrepresented in films?
One critic in Florida wrote for The Miami New Times that it’s time for Hispanics to get better roles and representation in the films they act in. No longer, he wrote, do they want to be the punchline.
“As the people who are told constantly that we are the minority, even though we make up such a massive number of ticket sales, aren't we done settling for never seeing ourselves on screen?” Juan Barquin asked.
More than that, a University of Southern California study found that even though Hispanics account for 26 percent of movie ticket sales, they’re only getting 4.2 percent of speaking roles in movies.
“In comparison, the study found that 10.8 percent of speaking characters were black, 5 percent were Asian and 3.6 percent were from other ethnicities,” Fox News reported. “In 2012, the researchers found, 76.3 percent of all speaking characters were white.”
And it’s not just lack of Latino roles that's a concern. Even if there are Latino roles, the films are told from a white person’s perspective. The Huffington Post notes that this is especially the case with the "Fast and the Furious" franchise.
"(E)ven if there are Latino roles, the movie's generally told through a white person experiencing a Latino environment,” said Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. “You don't see stories truly told from a Latino perspective."
But Hollywood does acknowledge this situation, particularly that Hispanics have found their way into movie theater seats.
“You don't have a major hit without Hispanic moviegoers,” said Chris Aronson, Fox's president of domestic distribution, to The Wrap. In fact, Hispanics are “far and away the most important consumer at our cinemas,” he said.
That's why Paul Presburger, the CEO of Pantelion, a Latino Hollywood studio, started a partnership with Lionsgate and Grupo — to bridge the gap between traditional Hollywood culture and the Hispanic population and audience, according to The Wrap.
“We went in with the notion that the Latino market was underserved,” Presburger said to The Wrap. “That turned out not be the case, for the most part. They are buying more tickets; Hollywood is serving them well, and it can do even better.”
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