WWW Opinion Times

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Don't give me an 'R'

Though Hollywood stubbornly continues to cram its values into the throat of American Culture, it is not as though they are completely unteachable.

Variety reports that for the first time since the 1980's PG movies have outpaced R movies in the Box Office take.
In 2004, PG films outgrossed R pics for the first time in two decades: $2.3 billion to $2.1 billion. The last time PG was bigger business than R was 1984, the year the Motion Picture Assn. of America introduced the PG-13 rating.

While PG films have been making more money . . . the box office generated by R-rated films has been falling precipitously.

Since 1999 -- when the $3 billion grosses for R pics was 41% of all box office -- total box office has grown by 26% while R-rated biz has fallen 30%.
Facts are stubborn things, and as in every place where the market rules, filmmakers are making adjustments in their script choices. But they unfortunately are not waxing philosophical about the shift.
No single cause is likely responsible for the shift, but many execs cite one factor: the voluntary guidelines studios and execs adopted five years ago. Those regulations restrict the marketing of R-rated films to kids, which in theory ensures that only people 17 and older can buy tickets to R-rated films.

But no matter what has put R into free-fall, some filmmakers and studio execs have concluded that R is losing its commercial luster.
It is clear that marketing changes have had some effect on these numbers. But a bit of introspection (and a review of the 2004 election results) might help them understand that self-imposed advertising restraint is no more responsible for this development than protecting the steel industry made us more competitive abroad. In both cases the market itself dictates the change. And thus as steel tariffs were withdrawn exposing production arrogance at home, removing the "tariff" against family oriented films advertising in "child-time" programming slots (via an overload of 'R' advertising) has revealed the arrogance of the Hollywood studios.

It is not insignificant to note at this point that domestically in 2004, "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Last Samurai" (both 'R' rated with Red State value scripts) accounted for $481 million (22%) of the $2.1 billion 'R' gross. Internationally they combined for $1.136 billion!

As Hollywood execs wring their hands over their increasing inability to produce seedy movies at a profit, they have missed the much more significant development: they're in an industry boom fueled by Red State ethics.

More evidence that Blue hearts yet remain blinded to Red thinking.