Be more like TV. That is GLAAD's message to the film industry with its "Studio Responsibility Index," a report card on LGBT representation in film released Wednesday.
GLAAD has conducted similar examinations of the television industry since 2005 (its report on the latest TV season is expected in the days to come), but this is its inaugural study of recent movies. Its finding were dismal, with only 14 of the 101 films studied including any LGBT characters, and just four featuring LGBT characters in "major" roles.
The report looked at the major releases of the six biggest Hollywood studios in the 2012 calendar year, which made up 76.4 percent of the total theatrical releases.
Universal, Paramount and Sony Columbia fared the best, each scoring "adequate" grades for their films' LGBT inclusion. Disney and 20th Century Fox were both "failing" by GLAAD's standards, with the latter not releasing a single film that included an LGBT character.
"If the major Hollywood studios want a real barometer of how much has changed in our society and how much catching up they have to do, they need only look at what's become one of the greatest threats to their viability: television," the study warned.
It cited popular TV shows like "Modern Family" and "Grey's Anatomy" for having fleshed-out LGBT characters who play pivotal roles in their plots. To 20th Century Fox it pointed specifically to its sister TV company Fox Broadcasting Network, "where highly rated inclusive shows like Glee have helped Fox attract a younger audience."
But other trends in the film industry may be working against GLAAD's goals of greater LGBT inclusion. The report found comedies to be the most LGBT-friendly films, with nine out of 24 including LGBT characters.
However midrange comedies and dramas are becoming increasingly less common among major studio outputs, as they turn to more big budget action and fantasy movies (or "genre" films, as they are classified in the GLAAD report with sci-fi and horror films) that play better in international markets – which now make up an estimated 70 percent of box office receipts.
Of the 34 genre films released by the major studios, only three included an LGBT character and just one of which – "Cloud Atlas" – garnered flat out praise from GLAAD for its LGBT representation.
But Hollywood's growing attention to foreign markets is all the more reason for greater inclusion of LGBT characters, GLAAD says, as they could help bring about a change in public opinion in places most restrictive on gay rights.The organization vows to work behind the scenes to help studios make films that are more LGBT inclusive, however it also posted an open petition to Hollywood filmmakers to include more LGBT characters.