Latinos comprise nearly half (48.3 percent) of L.A. County's population, and they now represent the largest ethnic group in California — larger than the white segment.

Yet, in this home of the entertainment industry, Latinos barely exist on the big screen. That, at least, is the finding of a USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism study on race and ethnicity in film.

See also: Hollywood Is Very White (L.A. … Not So Much)

The school's Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative this week released its analysis of “on screen portrayals of diversity in popular motion picture content.” Researchers looked at …


 … 100 of the top-grossing films for 2013.

The numbers at first don't look so bad. About 1 in 4 speaking roles (25.9 percent) went to minorities. But when you break down the figures, it starts to get sad, especially for Latinos.

Only about 5 percent of the roles (4.9 percent) went to Latinos. Asian Americans saw 4.4 percent representation, African Americans got 14.1 percent.

For Latinos, there's a sense of informal media apartheid in the entertainment business. 

Alex Nogales who, as president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, has for years been trying to get Hollywood to diversify, says the report “is damning for the industry.”

“There's a big disconnect between the movie makers and the community that surrounds them.,” he said. “You would think they would have married into our culture already.”

Nogales notes that Latinos are overrepresented at the box office. While the demographic represents 17 percent of the United States population, it buys 1 in 4 movie tickets, according to a 2013 Neilsen audience analysis.

Credit: USC

Credit: USC

“We're going to have to go visit with the studios and remind them again who is making their films successful,” Nogales told us. “Who is going to continue to be a bigger and bigger audience? We not only expect, but we demand, to be included.”

See also: Hollywood Freaks Out Over Threat to Tax Subsidy

The dire figures also lead the National Hispanic Media Coalition to wonder why some politicians, including state assemblymen Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, are so keen on letting big Hollywood media corporations get tax breaks, he said.

See also: Should White Film Industry Titans Get a Tax Break as They Fail at Diversity?

A bill by Gatto and Bocanegra would expand the amount of taxpayer cash going to these companies, from $100 million to an expected $400 million.

See also: Hollywood Location Awards Sponsored by Distant Cities & States

“Why should we give them tax credits when they're not reflecting the diversity of our state,” Nogales said.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly