For Nicole Ramirez, 22, going to the movies is a family tradition. Growing up in Miami, she remembers going to $2 daytime movies with her cousin and sister every Tuesday during the summer. On the weekends, she and her friends would flock to one of the outdoor malls for a night at the movie theater.

Ramirez has seen multiple summer movie releases this year with friends and family. This includes her Colombian parents, despite the fact they don’t speak English very well, she said.

Ramirez’s moviegoing habits are a marked difference from most of her fellow Americans, who go to the movies far less. According to research by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, non-Latino white Americans see films about 2.3 times a year on average. Latino audiences have the highest per capita annual film attendance, at 3.3 times a year.

During the summer, when Hollywood produces blockbusters that cater to those on vacation from school and looking to beat the heat, Latinos are consistently the group that boosts box office success. 

When it was released in theaters in mid-June, Ramirez went with friends to watch “Inside Out 2,” a movie that made $115 million on opening weekend — and had a 38% Latino audience. 

Two 2024 summer releases have also seen substantial Latino viewership, with “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” seeing a 35% Latino audience and “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” counting on Latinos for over a quarter (26%) of its audience.

Martin Lawrence, left, and Will Smith strike a pose
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith return to the screen this year in “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.”Matias Delacroix / AP

Last summer, the release of “Insidious: The Red Door” saw a 45% Latino audience share. 

In an industry coming under increasing pressure from streaming platforms and strikes, Hollywood’s Latino fans are the most avid moviegoers per capita in the U.S.

Michael Tran, one of the authors of UCLA’s 2024 Hollywood Diversity Report, explained that the prevalence of Latinos at the movies makes sense given they’re a young demographic. In 2020, the Hispanic population’s median age was 30, while the median age of the non-Hispanic population was 41.1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

“It makes sense because young people, young families are going to the movies,” Tran said.

Additionally, Tran noted that U.S. Latinos are a diverse demographic, ranging from Afro Latinos to light-skinned Hispanics of European descent. Where seeing oneself reflected on screen is important to movie watchers, the diversity of Latinos means that many different kinds of characters can be relatable. “You can say they have more versatility in who and what kind of faces they identify with on-screen,” he said.

A well-documented fact, however, is that while Latinos make up a large share of movie ticket sales, they are underrepresented in Hollywood. In 2023, only 7.2% of all film roles were held by Latinos and the share of Latino directors was 3.7%. 

Year after year, research shows that movies with more diverse casts generate more ticket sales in the global box office. In 2023, the most profitable movies were those that had a 31% to 40% share of diverse actors in their cast, according to UCLA.

McKinsey’s research found that increasing Latino representation on- and off-screen could lead to huge increase in profits. “The industry could generate an additional $12 billion to $18 billion a year in annual revenue — about 7% to 10% of today’s $179 billion — if Latino representation in Hollywood improved.”

Ramirez herself noted that she often selects her movie tickets at the box office based on whether she could see herself and her friends reflected in that film.

“I think as a young person, you’re always seeking that representation somewhere,” she said. “Doing that with friends, it’s almost validating,” she said, because you “get to compare notes on where you saw ourselves.”

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For others, the presentation of American culture on the big screen makes going to the movies an aspirational experience. Jason Gueits, a father of two teenage boys who has been going to the movies every month for years, credits his own love of going to the theater to his Cuban parents. 

“I think that’s something that he passed on to me,” Gueits said, speaking about his dad, “and now I’m passing it on to my kids.”

“Maybe there’s something to that,” he said, “coming to the country, and trying to learn the culture, and movies are a good way to do that.”

Both Ramirez and Gueits said that going to the theater to watch the 2022 film “Top Gun: Maverick,” the nostalgic Memorial Day weekend release centered around American naval pilots, was one of their favorite movie memories.

Family viewing, box office ‘gold’

Other industry experts have noted that Latinos, as a family-oriented demographic, tend to go to the movies as a group, with friends and family, to enjoy the communal setting of the theater.

Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore senior media analyst, told TheWrap, “Selling one ticket at a time or two is one thing, but being able to have an entire family or group of friends and family go to a movie theater, that’s gold at the box office.”

In a time of uncertainty for the movie industry, the UCLA report found that putting a focus on Latino audiences could be the secret to Hollywood’s success. The UCLA report concluded that “any new version of Hollywood needs to prioritize investing in diversity in front of and behind the camera.”

But while the casts of top films have slowly become more diverse over the past decade, according to UCLA, research shows that Latino talent in Hollywood is still untapped.

In an interview with McKinsey, the consulting firm, one Latino producer said, “There is no shortage of actors. Almost a surplus of writers. The broken part is the business side: They don’t know how to support or market content made by Latinos.”

For Gueits, as his kids have grown up, going to the theater has been a consistent activity that brings the family together — “something that they enjoy that they’re not just rolling their eyes doing,” he said.

More on Latinos and Hollywood

Ramirez, reflecting on her parents’ experience immigrating to the U.S., noted that going to the movies was a way to preserve a family activity and deal with a new home that was more “individualistic culturally,” she said. 

“That was really jarring to them, to not have this orientation towards family,” Ramirez said. “I think growing up going to the movies that often, and realizing who I went to the movies with, that makes complete sense — that was a way to preserve that.”  

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