NEW YORK • Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Melina Matsoukas and Greta Gerwig have led Hollywood to a record year for women in the director's chair.
Last year, women directed more of the most popular movies than any year before.
They helmed 12 of last year's top 100 grossing films, according to a study released on Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
That percentage of female filmmakers, 10.6 per cent, is greater than researchers have recorded before, suggesting that some measure of change is finally coming to an industry where inequality behind the camera has remained stubbornly persistent.
"This is the first time we have seen a shift in hiring practices for female film directors in 13 years," said Dr Stacy Smith, one of the study's authors.
The high-profile success of several films had already made 2019 a historic one for women.
Those include Wang's The Farewell, one of the year's most popular indie releases; Scafaria's acclaimed Hustlers; Matsoukas' Queen & Slim; and Gerwig's Little Women, which last week opened strongly with US$29 million (S$39 million) in its first five days of release.
Frozen II, with US$1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, is close to setting a new box-office record for a movie directed by a woman.
USC researchers singled out Universal Pictures, which put forward a slate of films with 26 per cent directed by women. Universal is the only major studio with a female studio chief, Ms Donna Langley.
Netflix also fared well. While the streaming company's films largely bypass theatres - leaving them outside the study's parameters - 20 per cent of its movies last year were directed by women.
Paramount Pictures, however, has not released a movie directed by a woman in the last five years.