In the context of the film and television industries, to greenlight is to give permission to proceed with a project.[1][2][3] It specifically refers to formally approving its production finance and committing to this financing, thereby allowing the project to proceed from the development phase to pre-production and principal photography. The power to greenlight a project is generally reserved to those in a project or financial management role within an organization. The process of taking a project from pitch to green light formed the basis of a successful reality TV show titled Project Greenlight.[4] The term is a reference to the green traffic signal, indicating "go ahead".

At the Big Five major film studios in the United States and the mini-majors, greenlight power is generally exercised by committees of the studios' high-level executives.[5] However, the studio president, chairman, or chief executive is usually the person who makes the final judgment call.[5] For the largest film budgets involving several hundred million U.S. dollars, the chief executive officer or chief operating officer of the studio's parent media conglomerate may hold final greenlight authority.[5] In practical terms, greenlight power in the 21st century at major film studios means the power to commit the studio to spending about US$100 million, on average, for a feature-length motion picture designated for wide release for the North American market.[2] Historically, this power was exclusively held by white male executives in Hollywood, though the status quo has slowly begun to change since the turn of the 21st century.[6] UCLA reported in 2020 that senior management teams at Hollywood film studios were 93 percent white and 80 percent male.[6]

Studio executives weigh many factors when deciding whether to greenlight films, of which a few include: the film already has a bankable star or director attached; the film has a "built-in audience" because it is related to an existing media franchise; the story resonates with a wide audience, evokes passionate emotions, or causes viewers to lean forward in eager anticipation of whatever happens next; the hero is likable and relatable; the film can be marketed to all four quadrants; and the film can be distributed widely through multiple windows and into multiple international markets.[2]


  1. ^ Knox, Dave (2005). Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde: An Insider's Guide to Film Slang. New York: Three Rivers Press. p. 98. ISBN 9781400097593. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Hirschberg, Jeffrey (2009). "Chapter 1: Behind the Greenlight: Why Hollywood Makes the Films It Makes". In Sickels, Robert C. (ed.). The Business of Entertainment: Volume 1, Movies. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. pp. 1–14. ISBN 978-0-275-99840-0. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
  3. ^ "Green light (dictionary definition)". 2020-05-02. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  4. ^ "Project Greenlight". HBO. Archived from the original on December 18, 2008. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Lang, Brent; Shaw, Lucas (2013-11-19). "Who Has Greenlight Power in Hollywood? A Studio-by-Studio Guide". TheWrap. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  6. ^ a b Barnes, Brooke (August 20, 2020). "Pledging to Tell More Inclusive Stories, MGM Remakes Orion Pictures". The New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved July 8, 2023.