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Emma Watson as Belle and Kevin Kline as Maurice in Beauty and the Beast, the year’s second highest-grossing film. Photo: Laurie Sparham/Disney/AP

Fewer major roles for females in 2017’s top-grossing films, for all that it was the year of Wonder Woman

Less than a quarter of the protagonists in the year’s 100 biggest grossing films were female characters, down from 2016, annual study finds

While 2017 may have been the year of Wonder Woman , a new study finds that female protagonists were down 5 percentage points in the year’s 100 top-grossing films.

The Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University in the United States released its annual “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” report on Thursday. It found that females comprised 24 per cent of protagonists last year, down from 29 per cent in 2016 despite high-profile releases like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast – 2017’s top two films at the box office.

Gail Gadot as Wonder Woman. Women and girls were less prominent in top Hollywood productions overall in 2017. Photo: Warner Bros.

Researchers determined that while 32 per cent of films featured 10 or more female characters in speaking roles, 79 per cent had 10 or more male characters.

“In an awards season when talk about women and gender has been top of mind, we need to separate hyperbole from reality,” said Martha Lauzen, executive director of the San Diego State centre. “The numbers do not yet reflect claims of a tectonic or massive shift in the film industry.”

Kelly Marie Tran in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. More Asian actresses featured in top Hollywood productions last year than in 2016. Photo: Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures USA

However, black female characters increased from 14 per cent to 16 per cent, and Latinas went from 3 per cent to 7 per cent. Asian females increased from 6 per cent to 7 per cent.

The study analysed 2,361 characters from 2017’s top 100 films at the box office. It has been conducted annually since 2002.