Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Melina Matsoukas and Greta Gerwig led Hollywood to a record year for women in the director's chair. In 2019, women directed more of the most popular movies than any year before. Women directed 12 of 2019’s 100 top-grossing films in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the AP reports. That share, 10.6%, is greater than researchers have recorded before, suggesting that change is coming to an industry where inequality behind the camera has remained persistent. The previous high in USC's annual study was 8%, in 2008. In 2018, only 4.5% of the top films were directed by women. "This is the first time we have seen a shift in hiring practices for female film directors in 13 years," said Stacy L. Smith, one of the study's authors. "Yet there is still much more progress needed to reach parity for women behind the camera."
Researchers singled out Universal; 26% of its films were directed by women. Universal is the only major studio with a female studio chief, Donna Langley. Netflix also fared well. While the streaming company’s films largely bypass theaters—leaving them outside the study—20% of Netflix’s 2019 movies were directed by women. Paramount, on the other hand, hasn’t released a movie directed by a woman in five years. Underrepresented filmmakers were behind 16.8% of films in 2019, a decline from last year’s record 21.4%. Female filmmakers have been largely overlooked in this awards season. Sunday's Golden Globes nominated no women for best director, and none of the best picture nominees was directed by women. The way films are received doesn't vary much, per Variety. Review aggregator Metacritic reported nearly identical average scores for films directed by white male, white female, or male underrepresented filmmakers. Films directed by women from underrepresented communities scored 8 points higher. (One reviewer thinks a new film might be the best one ever directed by a woman.)