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KidInsight kids in theater


By: Lauren Taylor, Abbie Burrus & Yalda Uhls

Children spend a significant portion of their time consuming media. This is a good thing for content creators. A potential concern for parents whose children consume it. And it’s an exciting opportunity to impart social and emotional learning and the skills necessary for development and life success.

Parents value this. In fact, research by Common Sense Media (CSM) shows that character strengths education is the most important factor children consider when choosing which shows and movies to watch. And guess what? This kind of content can also make money.

Several years ago, CSM launched an initiative to help parents, educators, and children choose entertainment that models the skills and strengths needed for positive development in adolescents. Through extensive research, the team identified a list of 11 key character strengths and life-her skills that can be taught to young viewers through the media. These include communication, compassion, courage, curiosity, empathy, gratitude, humility, integrity, perseverance, self-control and teamwork.

We then used this list to develop a first-of-its-kind tagging system that allows parents and children to easily identify content that promotes these core strengths and skills. In our film sample, the most frequently tagged were perseverance (tagged 795 times), courage (tagged 732 times), and teamwork (tagged 614 times).

We then conducted focus groups and surveys to assess the effectiveness of the system and found that both parents and children responded more positively to content tagged with these tags. . But the question is, will they pay for it?

at the box office

The Center for Scholars & Storytellers (CSS) collaborates with content creators and researchers to harness the power of the entertainment media to help the next generation thrive and thrive. We wanted to see if there was a business case for making movies that promote positive character strengths and life skills. So we partnered with her CSM to provide us with a dataset from 2,767 movie reviews. This dataset shows each movie’s tagged strengths and skills, star rating, and recommended age.

The movies selected for this sample have been in theaters since 2010 and have at least a 3-star rating from the CSM. While analyzing the data, we discovered some important points.

money talk

Movies that promote character strengths and life skills do better at the national and international box office. Average global ticket sales (sourced from for strength-tagged films exceeded $87 million, compared to just $36.5 million for other films.

It’s important to note that this relationship holds regardless of the movie’s star rating.For example, in 2022 Minions: Rise of Gru (4 stars, untagged) earned $937.2 million worldwide, compared with 2013’s despicable me 2 (4 stars, 2 tags) earned $970.7 million.On the superhero frontier, Marvel’s 2018 movie deadpool 2 (4 stars, untagged) earned $785.8 million worldwide, while 2019’s captain marvel (4 stars, 3 tags) earned $1.13 billion. DC’s superhero movies followed a similar pattern in 2013. man of steel (3 stars, untagged) earned US$667.9 worldwide and won the 2016 Batman v Birth of Superman Justice (3 stars, 1 tag) came to $872.4 USD.

Ticket sales are not adjusted for inflation, but these examples show that even for the same “universe” films, when positive attributes are not expected or seen in parental reviews, It shows that earnings appear to be low.

tomato power

A positive relationship between the film’s success and its conventional star rating and character strength followed a rating on Rotten Tomatoes. for example, Minions: Rise of Gru (2022) has a Tomatometer rating of 70%, despicable me 2 (2013) is 75%.


Teens: Not So Giant

Teenage films were tagged as having fewer strengths overall compared to films aimed at young children. It was less likely to be tagged as Work, with an average tag of just 0.8, almost half the average posted by other children’s age group films.

In fact, films aimed at teens were more likely to not include character strengths and skills. They were also less likely to be tagged for the skills they needed.

There is a clear gap in the value-based entertainment market for teens at this critical and challenging stage in their lives. They face critical developmental milestones in relationship development and identity formation at a time when mental health crises are at an all-time high. We believe that we will benefit from seeing more role models in entertainment who demonstrate their skills and skills.

big winner

The top-grossing movies listed with their strengths were often family-friendly movies like 2019’s that focused on friendship, adventure, and superheroes. Avengers: Endgame, The Kid Who Becomes King (2019) and Incredibles 2 (2018).

Bottom line: values ​​matter!

Most feature filmmakers don’t make movies as a hobby. These projects should be financially viable and ideally profitable. We hope that this quantitative analysis proves that not only high-value content is making money, but that it is making more money than other content.

Children’s content creators are encouraged to work with experts to create stories that promote positive strengths and life skills in a clear and educational way. Your audience benefits, and so do you!

Yalda Uhls is the founder of UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers. Lauren Taylor is a Fellow of her CSS. Abbie Burrus is a CSS intern.


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