Sunday Discussion: Does an R-Rating Finally Mean Success?!
There is an article that I've wanted to discuss for a few weeks now, and with Tropic Thunder performing fairly well this weekend (with a $26 million weekend total and the #1 spot), I thought this would be the right time to tackle it. The article is titled "R ratings might help comedies" and is written by Carl DiOrio of Hollywood Reporter as originally pointed out by Chris Thilk at Movie Marketing Madness. I think both of these articles present a very interesting outlook on the progressing state of cinema. In the past, R-ratings were always looked at as a bad thing for films that were trying to be mainstream successes (e.g. make a lot of money at the box office). However, I think that idea has changed entirely, and now R-ratings are potentially helpful in guaranteeing the success of certain types of films like comedies. It's an interesting flip flop and I love how we've grown to this point as moviegoers because it's entirely up to us.
Chris Thilk really puts this whole discussion into perspective with this statement: "These movies would still be more successful if they were toned down and rated PG-13 since more people would be able to get in to see it. That much is just a no-brainer." Is it really? I hate to always argue with some of Chris' statements, but just because some trend was established years ago doesn't mean it won't change over time. And obviously we (as moviegoers) have progressed. The Hollywood Reporter article is generally more of a report from a Fandango poll that showed that moviegoers were more interested in R-rated comedies like Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. Extending into the past, it was Wedding Crashers in 2005 and Superbad in 2007 that first started to show that an R-rating was not a bad thing like most blindly believe.
Addressing Chris' article and the Fandango results, Chris states that: "My guess would be that Fandango's users tend to skew younger and more male than the general population." I think it's a bit crazy to completely throw out speculation like this from Fandango just because the demographic is not the entire population. Which is why I'm bringing up this discussion today anyway, because I do think R-ratings, for particular films, are starting to interest more people than always deter them. Here are two great examples on both sides of the equation. The Dark Knight would definitely not have done as well as it's doing if it was rated R, but I really felt like it tested the edges of the PG-13 rating anyway. However, I think Watchmen is going to perform much better by being an R-rated movie true to the story in the graphic novel than being edited down to PG-13 to be made "more accessible."
Obviously if you simply compare something like The Dark Knight and its PG-13 rating and ~$500 million box office total versus something like Superbad's $121 million box office, the PG-13 rated film prevails. Unintelligent logic would say that obviously the rating was a factor, which it is, but that doesn't mean something like Watchmen should immediately be pushed to PG-13. In fact, I would argue that if Warner Brothers were to make it PG-13, it would perform worse than I think it's going to this March by being R. I'll obviously be talking about this more again next year, but for now it's my very educated guess based on all of the hype. Maybe box office earnings aren't even what I'm trying to discuss here anyway. I know that Hollywood only really cares about money, but the moviegoing public also cares about quality - and it's more the quality of The Dark Knight that made it so much money than its rating.
What I am wondering is whether this R-rated interested will ever extended beyond comedies and the occasional comic book movie. From last year, Oscar interest in No Country for Old Men eventually earned that R-rated film $74 million total, but that's not an amount that would change the way Hollywood works. And looking at the list of the top R-rated films, it's obvious that no R-rated movie will ever reach the levels of The Dark Knight (even though Passion of the Christ came very close). But as I mentioned earlier, the goal of making the most money is not the only part of this discussion. And I honestly think Watchmen could be on its way to earning a spot in that top 10 just as 300 did last year, more proof that the rating is helping it. In combination with Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder this year so far, it finally is starting to look like it's more than just a series of anomalies. Does an R-rating mean more success?