Oscars host Chris Rock brought viewers "straight into Compton" Sunday night in one of several bits that touched on the diversity issue pervading this year's event. In a video skit featuring man-on-the-street interviews in the L.A. neighborhood of Compton, Rock discovered that many patrons at a local movie theater had not seen most of the Oscar-nominated movies.
The nation's racial wage gap might have something to do with that. The average cost for a movie ticket is $8.61, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and there were 33 different movies nominated for an Oscar this year, not even counting foreign, documentary, and short film categories. That means a pair of tickets to every Oscar movie would have cost over $568. Just seeing the eight best picture nominees would have cost almost $138. For many Americans, that would be a big drain on the budget -- even moreso for most blacks.
The median weekly income for African-American full-time and salary workers is $643, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to $847 for equivalent white workers. That means that for African-Americans, seeing every nominated movie is a bigger sacrifice. Seeing all 33 movies would cost almost an entire week's earnings. For workers supporting a family, that is likely not realistic.
In Compton, an overwhelminly black neighborhood and the site of Rock's interviews, the numbers get even more grim. The median yearly income for black households in Compton is $42,955, significantly less than the $61,094 median yearly income for households in California at large, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, more than 26.3 percent of Compton's population is living below the poverty level of $24,300 for a family of four. That is less than $470 per week, an amount that doesn't leave a whole lot of cash free moviegoing.
In Rock's video skit, the comedian found that not only had most people that he talked to not seen some of the year's biggest nominated movies, including eventual best picture winner "Spotlight," they had not even heard of them.
"Where are you getting these movies from?" one interviewee asked, incredulously, as Rock went down the list of best picture nominees. "You are making these movies up. I come to the movies all the time."