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The ‘tanning of America’ spreads to film and television industries

whoswatching 6002013 was a banner year for diversity in the movies, both on-screen and in audiences.

In a year that saw the success of films such as "Lee Daniel's 'The Butler,'" "12 Years a Slave," and "Best Man Holiday," the MPAA reports that minority attendance also saw a surge.

Black movie attendance jumped by 13 percent in 2013, with 170 million movie tickets being sold to African-American filmgoers. And though African-Americans only make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, they made up 13 percent of the movie-going audience in 2013. (Latinos, who make up 17 percent of the population, accounted for 25 percent of movie ticket sales.)

These latest numbers from the MPAA's CinemaCon report once again suggest that minorities disproportionately consume television and film.

So while a vast majority of characters in film and television are white, the people who most often consume both forms of entertainment are black and brown — and those audiences are growing.

And as those audiences grow, the calls for more diversity in TV and film will only become more amplified.

The demand for more diversity comes into sharp focus when audiences vote with their dollars. It was a bit of a wake-up call for the film industry at the end of last year, when the romantic comedy "Best Man Holiday" nearly beat the blockbuster action flick "Thor 2" for the number one spot its opening week. A number of critics were stunned that a movie with a predominantly-minority cast could nearly oust a Marvel franchise film, but others, who understand that black films come with large and loyal audiences, were not the least surprised.

And other big performers of the past year – "Lee Daniel's 'The Butler'" and Kevin Hart's "Let Me Explain" – proved that "Holiday's" success as a minority film was not a fluke.

In fact, 2014 has already seen the success of another Kevin Hart vehicle, "Ride Along," and lightning may very well strike again when "Think Like A Man 2" (the sequel to the 2012 hit) premieres this summer. At some point, execs and critics alike will have to acknowledge that the success of black films aren't "surprises."

Television, meanwhile, seems to have gotten the memo that diversity sells. A recent UCLA study shows that TV programs with diverse casts and writers have higher ratings. Viewers, according to the study, are interested in casts that reflect their own experiences. And TV shows in which minorities make up 10 percent or less of the cast had the lowest ratings.

The easiest example of a successful, diverse TV show is ABC's "Scandal," starring Kerry Washington. Fox, meanwhile, has made diversity a top priority in several of its hit shows, and the effort is paying off in the ratings. NPR's Eric Deggans reported how Fox's "Sleepy Hollow," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "New Girl," each with its own rainbow coalition of casts, are performing well.

And now, NBC seems to be jumping into the diversity pool. After an outcry over its poor representation of black women, "Saturday Night Live" brought on Sasheer Zamata as a cast member and two black female writers to work behind the scenes. ("SNL's" representation of Latinas and Asians still leaves much to be desired.) Meanwhile, the network has tapped Alfre Woodard to play the U.S. president in a show called "State of Affairs," which will also star Katherine Heigl.

Even though more minorities are making it onto screens, big and smalls, they still remain woefully underrepresented in the entertainment industry as a whole. A vast majority of the shows examined in the UCLA study had very little minority representation. And earlier this week on Twitter, actress Victoria Rowell discussed just how very few African Americans were involved behind the scenes when she worked on the soap opera, "The Young and The Restless."

Victoria Rowell @victoriarowell
Young & Restless on air for 40 years, loyally watched by their absolute competitive-edge audience (blacks) & not ONE black Exec PRODUCER?
2:45 PM - 26 Mar 2014
130 Retweets 52 favorites

Victoria Rowell @victoriarowell
Not on black Public Relations representative in 40 years on Young & Restless
2:49 PM - 26 Mar 2014

Victoria Rowell @victoriarowell
Any WHY is there ONE of anyone in the first place? Who made that absurd rule? "We go our one, now business as usual." I don't think so.
2:53 PM - 26 Mar 2014

Victoria Rowell @victoriarowell

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