Movie Audiences: African-American and Asian-American Viewers Grow

In 2016, African-Americans and Asian-Americans attended major movies that showed greater diversity in their casting and subject matter, according to new report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Frequent African-American moviegoers nearly doubled to 5.6 million last year.

The number of regular Asian ticket-buyers jumped from 3.2 million to 3.9 million.

The MPAA defines frequent moviegoers as people who attend the cinema once a month or more.

Both groups were over-represented on a population basis. African-Americans made up 15% of frequent moviegoers, while comprising 12% of the U.S. population. Asians account for 8% of the population, but made up 11% of frequent moviegoers.

In 2016, Asians over-represented the most of any group in terms of per capita ticket buying. They went to the movies an average of 6.1 times last year, up from 4.9 times in 2015. African-Americans went an average of 4.2 times, and increase over the 3.5 times they averaged in 2015.

The rise in attendance comes as Hollywood created more movies with black characters, such as “Hidden Figures,” a commercial hit about pioneering African-American NASA workers, and “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age drama that won the Best Picture Oscar.

The industry-wide debate about diversity was triggered after black performers were shut out for two consecutive years.

This year’s Oscars were more diverse–Moonlight won Best Picture, and its star Mahershala Ali earned best supporting actor, and Viola Davis won a supporting actress Oscar for Fences.

Asian Characters

Asian characters appeared in blockbusters like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Magnificent Seven, but there were also cases of “whitewashing” that raised protests.

Ghost in the Shell, an adaptation of a Japanese manga, and Doctor Strange, a Marvel Comics film, both cast white actors as characters that had originally been depicted as Asian.

Speaking Characters

A USC study from last year found that out of the top-grossing films of 2015, white actors played 73.7% of speaking or named characters.

Oly 12.2% of speaking or named characters were black, 5.3% were Latino, and 3.9% were Asian.


Hispanics have been one of the most reliable groups of moviegoers, but not last year. The remained the second-biggest sector of ticket buyers after Caucasians, but their representation dipped on a per capita basis. Hispanics frequented the movies 4.6 times on average, down from 2015 when they averaged 5.2 visits.