Hispanic moviegoers have come a long way since the 1997 movie Selena, Jennifer Lopez' first major breakout in Hollywood and a film that grossed over $100 million despite being based on a famous Hispanic singer and targeted squarely at a Hispanic audience.
Over the past few years, Hollywood has had success with Hispanic moviegoers in movies such as the Fast & Furious franchise and Paranormal Activity. Disney even added to the mix in Toy Story 3 — remember when Buzz started talking Spanish?
Hispanics in 2012 accounted for 25% of the movie tickets sold in the U.S. This sounds good to an industry that has seen declining movie attendance over the last few years. Hispanics being the fastest growing population in the U.S. not only means a new voice in the voting booths, but also a new revenue driver for Hollywood studios and movie theaters.
The type of attention that Hispanic audience members are getting was unheard of before 2000, when media executives did not pay much attention to a growing demographic. Now media executives push for their actors to interview on Spanish media channels to promote a newly released movie.
It's a bit more complicated that language, though. Catering to Hispanics can bring them out to the movies, but just because an actor can speak Spanish does not mean he or she will be a success with the Latino community. Will Farrell’s Casa De Mi Padre did a miserable $5.9 million in gross sales.
Just as politicians must realize that saying a sentence in Spanish doesn’t guarantee a vote from Hispanics, Hollywood must realize that to capture the Hispanic audience, they can't just add some Hispanic flavor to a movie with a Hispanic actor or actress. Studios need to go beyond pandering to Hispanic moviegoers and produce content that engages them on their own terms
It's not just movies that are making a hit for Hispanics, either, but also television shows such as Sofia Vergara’s Modern Family or Eva Longoria’s Desperate Housewives, both of which have given Hispanics a new entry to television sitcoms outside of the Hispanic media channels (e.g. Univision, Telemundo).
Hollywood’s new interest in Hispanic moviegoers and Hispanic actresses on mainstream television shows signifies another reason why the growing Hispanic population plays an important role in the U.S. economy. It simply does not make sense to kick them all out, does it?