As a media consultant, and as a U.S. Latina, this story for me is about opportunity not seized -- opportunity that I can capture with three simple facts:
We buy nearly one-fourth of all movie tickets in the United States
, despite making up only 17% of the population
. Latinos are a key demographic for the movie industry, because as frequent moviegoers we help drive revenue for theater owners. In recent years, Latinos have made up between one-quarter and one-third of all U.S. frequent moviegoers
, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. And unfortunately, Latinos rarely appear in those movies. Imagine what Latino box office would look like if we did.
Three: U.S. Latinos are nearly invisible in entertainment
As The Economist points out, it is actually Latinos who are severely under-represented at the Oscars. While black Americans have received 10 percent of Oscar nominations since 2000 compared to their 13 percent share of the population, Latinos have received just three percent of Oscar nominations with a 16 percent share of the U.S. population
Those three facts taken together say one thing to me: Entertainment companies are missing their chance to connect their bottom lines to a quickly growing revenue stream. And that means opportunity. The movie studio or television network that figures out how to speak more clearly and appealingly to Latinos stands to earn rich rewards at the box office and during sweeps. The first step down that road is to get more Latinos on camera and behind the camera.
Putting Latino actors and actresses on camera will connect Latino audiences more personally to any film. I am not talking about Latinos cast in the old, worn stereotypical roles as criminals, cops and manual laborers. These tired characters are more likely to turn off Latinos audiences rather than get them to spend more at the box office. Rather, Latinos need to be cast in roles as diverse as Hollywood storytelling itself -- Wall Street traders, heroes in a future dystopia, or stranded astronauts. And this can also be boosted by involving Latinos in writing, production and with Latino executives to green light Latino-appealing shows and movies.
Remember that the studio and network executives who take these basic steps will seize an important advantage over their competitors. It's an advantage that will translate into box office sales and television advertising dollars. This is not only the right thing to do, this is the smart business thing to do.
As college enrollment and household income rise quickly for U.S. Latinos, we are spending more money, buying homes, buying cars, and yes -- buying movie tickets. Until entertainment executives in Los Angeles and New York understand that we are young, upwardly mobile and love to go to the movies -- and then act accordingly -- they will be leaving our money on the table. And that is no way to run a business.