SAN DIEGO — Women held roughly one-fifth of the behind-the-scenes positions on the 250 highest-grossing films at the domestic box office in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
The center’s annual “Celluloid Ceiling” report analyzed the year’s 100, 250 and 500 top-grossing films at the domestic box office and found that women made up 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 100 films and 21% of the same positions on the top 250 films.
Both marks were the highest rates observed in the last five years. In addition, women held 23% of key positions behind the scenes on the top 500 films, the same level observed in the center’s study of 2018 films.
“While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women four-to-one in key behind-the-scenes roles,” center Executive Director Martha Lauzen said in a statement. “It’s odd to talk about reaching historic highs when women remain so far from parity.”
Women sat in the director’s chair for 13% of the year’s top 250 domestic films, including 12% of the top 100. Both percentages are high water marks among recent years; women directed just 4% of the top 100 grossing films in 2018 and 8% in 2017. Among the top 500 films, women directed 14% of them, a tick down from the 15% that the center observed in 2018 and four points down from 2017’s 18%.
Women held 27% of producer positions on the top 250 films, the most of any behind-the-scenes position analyzed in the study. Women also held 23% of editing credits, 21% of executive producer credits, 19% of writing credits and 5% of cinematographer credits. All five rates were five-year highs or, in the case of women as executive producers, matched the rate of 2018.
Despite the gains noted in the report, only 69% of top films employed more than one woman in major off-screen roles, while 99% employed more than one man. Men also dominated sound and score composition roles, with women making up just 6% of composing roles on the year’s top 250 films.
Films with at least one woman in the director’s chair were also significantly more likely to employ more women in key roles compared to films with only male directors. Films with at least one woman director also had women holding 59% of writing roles, 43% of editing roles, 21% of cinematography roles and 16% of composing roles. On films directed only by men, those rates fell to 13%, 19%, 2% and 6%, respectively.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has published the Celluloid Ceiling report each of the last 22 years, billing it as the “longest-running and most comprehensive study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment in film.” The center used year-end box office data from Box Office Mojo to complete the study. Foreign films and reissued films were omitted, according to the center.