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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hollywood's Unprofitable Commitment to R-Rated Movies

While it's old news now, I am still intrigued by the Dove Foundation study on the profitability of R-rated and G-rated movies released in January:
GRAND RAPIDS, January 27 -- A comprehensive ten-year study focusing on the profitability of films based on their MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating is being released today. It reveals that, while Hollywood produced 17 times more R-rated than G-rated films between 1988 and 1997, the average G-rated film produced 8 times more gross profit than its R-rated counterpart. In addition, the average G-rated film produced a 78% greater rate of return on investment (ROI) than the average R-rated film. . . .
It has long been recognized that family-safe films are more likely to draw crowds than often offensive R-rated films, but the magnitude of the typical financial penalty for pushing an R-rated movie surprises me. Why does Hollywood continue to prefer R-rated movies over much more profitable family fare? Is it possible that Hollywood executives are just incredibly stupid? Or is something going on other than an objective pursuit of optimum returns? I'm almost tempted to speculate that a devout commitment to the dark side of life takes precedence over financial returns in the minds of some of the elite in Hollywood. Or is it, more plausibly, that pursuit of the praise of a callous world for R-rated films matters more than simple financial gain? Are all three explanations needed to account for the decision making of Hollywood executives: stupid, vile, and vain?

In any case, many of us are going to far fewer movies and looking for better ways to spend our money. And I hope all of you will shy away not just from R-rated movies, but from any form of entertainment that is not compatible with the high standards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's your call how to do that, but I think it's better to err on the safe side. Spend less on the entertainment provided by an increasingly vile world, and do more reading or visiting people or interacting with your kids. Ouch - that reminds me, I better get upstairs and start interacting with mine.

32 comments:

Bro. Brandon B. said...

I'm curious as to how profitable all these LDS - geared films are... did you know you can find them in video rental stores in PA and NJ? Here I am living in the state with the lowest number of LDS in the general population (unless you count the District of Columbia) and my video store carries "The R.M." and "The Home Teachers" among others... another tip if you watch the Home Teachers, try it with the commentary on - hilarious all over again. Low budget + origional content + undertapped market = awesome wholesome films!

Anonymous said...

Jeff,
Is this study done by a reputable group. The statistics you give are unbelievable. I thought Hollywood was about making a buck.

Rusty said...

If you want a lot more information on this read "Hollywood vs. America" by Michael Medved. It was written about 10-12 years ago but the information is just as pertinent today as it was then. Very interesting stuff.

Bookslinger said...

Yeah, I'm skeptical that Hollywood is not going after the bigger dollars.

But I thought of two more angles.

One: Actors, crew, producers, directors, studios, and production companies, etc., all make money regardless of whether the movie is profitable. They get paid before the movie is shown at the theaters. It's the investors who take a beating if the movie doesn't make a profit at the theaters. And Hollywood studio execs probably don't care about the return on investment (ROI) of investors. As long as the ROI is better than their average return on a good mutual fund, the investors are probably happy.

Two: I wonder if the Dove organization took into account two other things: a) Foreign box-office receipts, and b) Video sales (domestic and foreign). Foreign receipts and video sales often turn a break-even movie into a lot of profit.

Bookslinger said...

LDS movies have largely been money-losers, with very few success stories.

I read a comment by one of the producers/owners where Other Side of Heaven needed to sell 500,000 more DVD's to break even.

The ones made on a shoestring budget probably made money, like God's Army, Brigham City, and Singles Ward.

Home Teachers was nice slapstick. As long as you didn't take it seriously. R.M. was funny, but too many in-jokes.

I also liked Best Two Years, and my favorite one now is Baptists at our Barbecue.

You can get all those used on Ebay.

The most professional LDS movies are probably Other Side of Heaven, and Work and the Glory.

I also just bought 50 copies of the Book of Mormon Movie from the producers/owners of that movie. I know the movie kind of stinks as a movie, but I kind of like the plot. :-) I'm going to give it out to people with a copy of the Book of Mormon.

All the above movies are good to share with your home teaching families. I'd even recommend showing "The Home Teachers" to your home-teaching families. There is a cool message underneath the slapstick comedy, trying to find the real reason for home-teaching, and not doing it "just because you have to" and not doing it just for the numbers in a Peter Priesthood way.

RoastedTomatoes said...

These financial statistics are echoed by perfectly reputable sources, as well. R-rated films consistently have a much lower box office take than other films (PG-13 and G films, however, have fairly similar earnings). One probable reason is that teenagers are most of the box office, but are more-or-less excluded from R films. Some teen-popular R films, such as the Matrix, have been shown to inflate the revenue of "family" films shown at the same multiplex, as teenagers buy tickets they're allowed to get and then simply switch screening rooms after entering the theater.

The point that's missing in this analysis is that the adult audience for movies is mainly involved in buying DVDs. So DVD sales is really where the R vs. G comparison should take place.

Bro. Brandon B. said...

I'm sorry to hear that the LDS movies are unprofitable... I would have thought that seeing as how they appear relativly cheap to make (again I urge to you watch the Home Teachers with commentary on) that it would be easy to bring in lots of $$$ even with a small market (but growing). At risk of jacking the post, what are some LDS g-rated favorites? I can never watch "The Emperor's Groove" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" enough times!

Mormanity said...

ANybody seen Saints and Soldiers? We just saw it (rented). Very moving and professionally done. But many people might not recognize that it was about an LDS soldier.

captveg said...

Saints and Soldiers was also originally given an R rating due to one shot of a blown up leg, so they cut the shot to get a PG-13, which, IMO, was the wrong message to send.

That one shot didn't change the ideology of the film whatsoever. They cut it for money reasons, nothing more (specifically, to secure a good box office at Utah theaters). War is not pretty, and if they originally felt that this shot helped tell that message they shouldn't have cut it because of some arbitrary ratings board. Cut it because it hurts the message of the film? Fine. Cut it for $ motives? At best, questionable.

The MPAA is nice as a general rule, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty and the specific films it becomes pointless.

Now, what this research fails to point out is that PG-13 films have risen exponentially in number since the mid-90's and PG films have all but vanished. Many studios ARE seeing the financial reward in PG-13 over R, and so you get a PG-13 that has little or no morality but skirts the line of the R-rating; the ideology is just as salacious while the right body parts are barely covered and certain four-letter words are said the maximum ratings-allowed times.

They do this as a dangling carrot; "If we hook them on PG-13 sleaze, they'll come out to R-rated sleaze a few years down the line." It's a standard baiting manouver. Now, there are some great PG-13 films out there, but this particular rating has become the most dangerous of them all, IMO, because of its ambiguity to the average LDS teen who thinks "PG-13 = God approved" and "R = Satan endorsed". (More on this mindset later).

Meanwhile, the PG rating has been dumbed down to mean "one second of this film is not G". If you look at the '70s and early '80s, when there was G, PG, R, it was well balanced. "Parental Guidance" actually meant what it said: may not be suitible for children. Try renting the PG All the President's Men or Raiders of the Lost Ark sometime and you'll see what I mean.

Meanwhile, in today's world, Napoleon Dynamite gets a PG rating for what the MPAA calls "thematic elements and language". What is that, exactly? The oh-so-not-G-appropriate language of "hecka" and "gosh"? The dangerous themes of Uncle Rico throwing steaks? In 1968, the widely accepted family film Planet of the Apes - yes, it was promoted as a family film, social message and slow pacing aside - was rated G and had, among other things: A man getting shot in the neck; a man with a lobotomy scar; several uses of the words "damn" and "hell"; brief nudity (Heston at the mock trial); and a few other "thematics" to boot.

Different world today, that MPAA.

Is it possible that Hollywood executives are just incredibly stupid? Or is something going on other than an objective pursuit of optimum returns? I'm almost tempted to speculate that a devout commitment to the dark side of life takes precedence over financial returns in the minds of some of the elite in Hollywood. Or is it, more plausibly, that pursuit of the praise of a callous world for R-rated films matters more than simple financial gain? Are all three explanations needed to account for the decision making of Hollywood executives: stupid, vile, and vain?

You neglect to consider other possibilities which would challenge your notion that all people in Hollywood who make R-rated movies want to corrupt and exploit the world.

One such possibilty is that they are interested in telling stories that take a particular topic head on and truthfully. Why is Mystic River rated R? Because the subject matter is about crime and violence and how the victims never fully recover. Should a film about the emotional scars of sexual abuse of a minor thirty years after the event occured be presented generally to young teens? I would argue that it would not, in most cases, be appropriate. Yet it is absolutely appropriate for those who wish to contemplate the matter and the implications thereof. The film didn't make great money, but it wasn't just about making money. It was about looking at a societal ill and how people lock away their demons only to be tormented from the inside; it was about trust and betrayal, and making the mistake of acting on assumptions and taking unrighteous power into ones hands, only to have those actions condemn; it was about how people often lie to not necessarily cover their tracks, but to instead not rekindle memories of pain.

These are not themes to be tread upon lightly, nor are they easy and mild to consume. Discussing such topics can be rough; the film itself can be rough. But it is most definitely not "stupid, vile, and vain."

Yes, there is a lot of trash out there. There is such dreck as the "comedy" Deuce Bigalow: European Gigilo. An intelligent person does not need a rating to know to avoid this film.

Again, the MPAA is nice. It is a good general guideline. But it isn't very useful in specific film-by-film use. That's been my experience.

Movies have gotten a bad rap in the last 20-years in the US by Mormons because of the R-rated statements and the social stigma that comes with disagreeing with its blanket use. It's too easy to use the ratings system as a crutch. If one had to choose the more moral film between the R-rated Amistad and the PG-13 rated XXX, the former is the moral choice every time. It is an appropriately rated film, but because it has bigger fish to fry than the latter and does so with full disclosure (African slaves were treated barbarically on the slave ships) the R rating is a suggestion of general mature age to handle the material, not a condemnation of the film's moral stance.

This is a complex issue, and one that I've had many experiences discussing. (I have a BA from BYU in Media Arts, i.e., Film). I've found that there are generally two ways to look at it: if you are watching movies just for straightforward, no-other-motives, escapist entertainment, heed the ratings. However, if you look at movies as more than that - as a venue to discuss issues, thematics, morality, good and evil, etc., make the choice for each film as it comes along.

I've never seen greater hypocrisy than the BYU Bookstore, where as a student I casually walked in and bought the novel of The Godfather without so much as an odd look; they'd burn the place down before they'd put the DVD of the film in stock. Concurrently, if I wanted to watch the film on campus outside of class (because, for those unaware, film students at the Y do watch R-rated films in their classes, with full approval of the First Presidency) I would have to go to the media part of the library and present a teacher approved pass.

Both the book and the film are valuable works of art, but the book is definitely the one with more vile material, with the film being the more restrained.

Why the difference in how they are treated at BYU? Perception is everything: movies are seen as entertainment only, while novels are seen as higher learning.

That experience was a microcosm of the modern US church and the whole ratings issue.

Finally, I am happy to report that this has (and should continue to be) one of the better years for family entertainment. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PG, but should be G), the shamefully underseen Millions, Robots, Madagascar, and Sky High have already been released, but upcoming we have The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (appropriately PG-13 - the characters are growing up, the evils in that fictional world are increasing, and the potential younger kid viewers should generally wait until they have, too), The Wallace & Gromit Movie, and, depending on how "dark" Peter Jackson decides to go, King Kong.

If anyone is curious, my personal film collection can be seen here: http://www.dvdaficionado.com/dvds.html?
cat=1⊂=All&id=captveg

I expect a few of those titles I own to shock some, but I have a valid reason, in my view, as to why they are in some way important or worthwhile. They are all, on some level, "entertaining", but I use that word in its broadest definition; films that make one think and think hard about tough issues and circumstances are "entertaining", if only on an intellectual or aesthetic level, if not the more genrally accepted escapist.

captveg said...

That web address came out wrong. It's actually:

http://www.dvdaficionado.com/dvds.html?cat=1&
sub=All&id=captveg

captveg said...

I don't mean to spam, but I just remembered this and I thought it would be interesting fat to chew:

Disney's Pinocchio (1940) was given a G rating during one of its re-releases in the 1970s. In this film, you have the blatant depiction of minors (of about 8-10 years old) drinking beer and smoking cigars.

Current MPAA rules would mandate a PG-13 rating just for the depiction of these acts alone, due to recent changes in how the MPAA handles drug use in films, particularly use by minors. (The PG-13 but shoulda been PG Whale Rider suffered from this new rule.)

The film absolutely condemns these actions, with "donkey transformation" a very visual lesson for the younger viewers of the intended family audience. It's a direct, literally expressed message by Walt Disney to children: "If you drink beer and smoke cigars, you're a jackass." And yes, the film uses the word "jackass."

Just one example of how the standards of the MPAA have changed over the last 30 years, and how in 2005 they are more about the objective "if it happens, increase the rating" mindset rather than the more useful subjective "if the motive is moral, let the audience see the morality play out" mindset.

With that, I'll refrain from further comments until I have someone to actually hold further conversation with. :)

Anonymous said...

I understand why they cut the scene to prevent an "R" rating... we as Mormons are not supposed to see "R" rated films, which would have left out the audience the film was intended for..

Joy

Anonymous said...

Yes Joy, As LDS we are told that we should not be watching R rated movies. I choose to follow the Prophet and obey His words.
If you let that trash into your house you are inviting in evil.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the subject of what we've been told we should or shouldn't watch has been debated many times before. Suffice it to say now that to say that those who see select R-rated aren't following the prophet is an oversimplification.

Although most R-rated movies, and probably most PG-13 movies, are trash, to use the word of the last anonymous commenter, not all are.

As one who has found a few (very few) R-rated movies spiritually uplifting, and who finds many PG-13 movies morally offensive, I'd agree with what Catpveg said:

"I've found that there are generally two ways to look at it: if you are watching movies just for straightforward, no-other-motives, escapist entertainment, heed the ratings. However, if you look at movies as more than that - as a venue to discuss issues, thematics, morality, good and evil, etc., make the choice for each film as it comes along."

Back to the topic, more or less: What bothers me these days is the lack of certain types of people in movies, namely people (not necessarily LDS) who don't use alcohol, who believe sex is more marriage only, who keep their language clean, that sort of thing. I don't expect movies to all be G-rated (that would be boring), and I don't object to movies showing people as they really are (which would make a film R-rated). What I find disturbing is the lack of characters that I can identify with in those kinds of things. There are plenty of evangelical Christians out there, for example, who have the same moral standards we do and are trying to live them just as much as we are trying, but they seldom appear in films (except to be portrayed as nerds).

I guess that's one reason I've liked some of the LDS-themed films, even ones of not very high quality. I can at least relate to a number of the characters in ways that I can't with many other films.

captveg said...

I choose to follow the Prophet and obey His words.

So do I. I go by the First Presidency approved BYU standard because I've found that, 1) it helps keep appropriate objectiveness, 2) it incorporates the appropriate discipline for those that choose to hear the voices of those people in the world that have concerns, yet different standards, and what they are saying. These are not malicious evil people on the whole, but rather flawed individuals with flawed reasoning. Martin Scorsese doesn't ask us to enjoy the life of Henry Hill in GoodFellas, but rather asks us to consider how he lacks redemption because of his inability to rip out the rooted sins in his heart.

You can read the BYU "Media Arts Selection, Creation, and Teaching" declaration here: http://www.byu.edu/tma/students/
mahandbook/policies/selection.html

Granted, this is discussing film in a educational and scholarly context, but that is how I watch a lot of film, so I choose to apply those principles.

Besides, the MPAA rating system is very American biased. What do you tell members who live in Canada, where half of American R-rated films are approved for their age 14 rating? Or to Australian members, who never understood why the R-rating was so emphasized by US members, because they would of course never watch pornography (which is what an R-rating means in the Austrailian ratings system).

I remember an Elder on my mission from Mexico who for topical reasons brought up an example of Braveheart one day. Unfortunately this was at a zone conference, because one Elder just flipped out and started berating him for watching an R-rated film. The mexican Elder blinked for a moment, astounded at this outburst, then politely said, "Elder, there are no R-ratings in Mexico. The Mexican rating system is A, B, C. A is children's films; B is the US equivilant of everything from PG to R; C is pornography. For B-rated films, we we simply choose the film based on its own merits and handle issues as they come up."

Later that zone conference he and I discussed some of the more potent issues raised by the film Braveheart.

I commend anyone who keeps the R-rated standard. I knew a number of fellow students who did, and they had very valid reasons. If you simply want entertainment, or even if some rougher content makes one uncomfortable regardless of the condemnation of this content within the film itself, then by all means keep that standard. One of my better friends in the BYU film program felt the latter reasoning made not watching R-rated films appropriate for him. The reason we were friends despite our disagreement on personal viewing standards was because we understood that neither of us were holding our particular standard to indulge in wicked practices. As one of my BYU professors wrote:

"Do representations of violence fill us with sorrow and a sense of life’s sanctity, or do we rewind to watch the blood burst? Do honest portraits of other lives increase our sense of love and gratitude, or do they cause us to become squeamish and sanctimonious?"

Therein is the defining difference, not whether 6-7 people with no concept of God's plan of salvation give something a PG or R stamp.

Shadow Spawn said...

IT's important to consider, who's rating these movies? Who are they to decide what's offensive and what's not? It's not like the Quorum of the Twelve is providing the ratings.

Rusty said...

Amen to everything Captveg said.

Bookslinger said...

Note the change that happened within the last couple years in the "For the Strength of Youth" brochure.

The church's policy is no longer "R is bad, PG-13 is okay".

The brochure now gives overall guidelines, much like what captveg said. That is good because most PG-13 movies are sleeze that faithful saints should not be going to.

After too many sleezy jokes and too much camera focus on scantily clad body parts, I walked out of "Dodgeball", a PG-13 movie.

Other points:

1. removing the blown up leg in Saints and Soldiers was okay. You don't need to show gore in order to create the message of gore. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of getting ideas across without having to show you the actual picture.

2. LDS film makers have a right to make money too, so I don't begrudge them cutting the scene to get the better rating.

3. A better rating system. There's nothing stopping churches or other non-hollywood institutions from creating our own rating system. It would not have to be used by Hollywood, or put on movies or the boxes videos come in. Maybe just a web site that parents or concerned viewers could check. This could address the moral message of the film, ie, Pinocchio's denunciation of smoking and drinking as opposed to encouraging it.

captveg said...

removing the blown up leg in Saints and Soldiers was okay. You don't need to show gore in order to create the message of gore. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of getting ideas across without having to show you the actual picture.

I agree on principle, but having known some of the makers of Saints and Soldiers I have firsthand knowledge that they were quite disgruntled at having to remove the shot to get a PG-13. They felt it was an appropriate shot. I don't condemn them, I just question their willingness to stick to their artistic guns, which leads us to...

LDS film makers have a right to make money too, so I don't begrudge them cutting the scene to get the better rating.

Yes. Like I said: at best, questionable artistically. I'm speaking in idealistic tones here. It is indeed a business, and they deserve to have financial success. Corbin Allred (one of the actors in Sainst & Soldiers) and I discussed this a few months ago and he basically said (me paraphrasing), "We needed that LDS dollar to have any success financially, so I was okay with it in the end." And I was like, "Yep. Compromise is a necessary tactic."

A better rating system. There's nothing stopping churches or other non-hollywood institutions from creating our own rating system. It would not have to be used by Hollywood, or put on movies or the boxes videos come in. Maybe just a web site that parents or concerned viewers could check. This could address the moral message of the film, ie, Pinocchio's denunciation of smoking and drinking as opposed to encouraging it.

I highly recommend http://screenit.com/search_movies.html

They list every possible catagory of offense, and the best part is that they allow for the moral judgment about those aspects to be made by the reader.

Their "artistic quality" reviews, however, leave much to be desired, IMO.

Charles said...

Hollywood has always been about "artistic" interpretations when it comes to the writers, directors and actors. The studios are concerned with money but because they are composed of so many artistic types they are willing to forego the profit to produce movies that push their agenda.

BoM Indy pointed out too that most people in the industry make money no matter how well the film is.

I'm sure the statistics are accurate, but my thought on how they are misleading considers how there are more R movies than G. With a greater selection to choose from each R movie is in greater competition from the population. When a G movie opens its usually the only G movie for a month or two. The two populations that want to view either type tend to differ in their selections.

Couple that with children's interest in seeing the same thing over and over and the fact that If a couple is considering an R movie (where they will attend alone) vs. a G movie (where they will take 1-3 children) it makes sense that G movies make more money.

What surprises me is that the industry doesn't police itself by offering lower ratings on popular movies with the studios, producers, and directors working together to create an artistic 'lower' rating rather than letting independent companies like clean flicks do it for them.

they would reach a broader audience, reach higher revenue, and avoid the legal conflics with 3rd parties doing it for them.

As it is I'm grateful that 3rd party companies are trying to fill the market for better quality.

Bookslinger said...

CaptVeg: Are the producers of Saints and Soldiers going to come out with an R-rated "director's cut" of the movie?

cayblood said...

Books of Mormon in Indy, please don't you dare distribute The Book of Mormon Movie with the Book of Mormon. The movie is so bad that it is a downright insult to associate the two together, and you are sure to turn off any potential converts long before they begin reading.

captveg said...

Are the producers of Saints and Soldiers going to come out with an R-rated "director's cut" of the movie?

No chance, IMO. There's not enough of a market for it.

I'm not saying I've heard this or anything. Just my opinion knowing the situation from more of an outsiders perspective.

Of course, they could always do what Brian De Palma did with the 1983 film Scarface: The MPAA refused to give it an approving for an R-rating unless he elminated some of the violence and language. So, De Palma did so and got the R rating, then he released the film without the edits they prescribed to get that rating!

But, of course, that's called "dishonesty"....

Bookslinger said...

Cayblood: You got a point. The Book of Mormon Movie reeks of amateurism at many points. However, I also felt the Spirit during parts too. It's a mixed blessing.

Butchyaknowhat, 19-year old missionaries make unprofessional presentations too, and occasionally deliver a message with the Spirit in spite of their inept attempts.

The problem in giving out the DVD with the Book of Mormon may be that doing so would give the impression that the church endorsed the movie, which it hasn't.

I will give the BoM Movie DVD's to youth members and inactive members of the church. I'm going to rethink the idea of giving them out with the actual Book of Mormon to non-members. There are plenty of inexpensive ($1 to $1.50) church-produced DVD's to give out.

I already have Heavenly Father's Plan, The Restoration, Together Forever, and Finding Faith in Christ. If you purchase them from www.ldscatalog.com in quantity 50 (case lots), they are only $50 to $75 per case.

The multi-lingual church DVD's are well accepted by immigrants that I've met. For a cute "I like Jesus" story, see:
http://indybooks.blogspot.com/2005/07/moment-361-korean-multi-lingual-dvds.html

Kevin said...

Thanks for showing that Hollywood is unprofitable. That report counters all of those ficticious financial statements given on Wall Street.

BTW, you do know that the study was comparing differentials. The article said that Hollywood made 17 times more R films than G films. So, while the profit per film may have been higher for G films, the total revenue for the R films would have been greater.

You are correct in saying that the profit made by G films shows that there is an underserved market. For that matter, I hope Hollywood makes more G movies.

The statistics, however, do not support your claim that Hollywood producers are ignoring fiscal reality in a conspiracy to undermine American values.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, Overall, good analysis; but why did you mischaracterize the report as claiming R films were un-profitable, when it clearly stated they were merely less profitable on a film-by-film basis than the G-rated?

My pet theory is that the study may have ignored overseas box-office, and video/DVD sales. Or, maybe it did take video/DVD sales into account, and that positively affects G-rated films' ROI more than R-rated films.

captveg said...

I doubt they included overseas or Video sales. I know they didn't factor in DVD sales, since DVDs arrived in 1997 and this study ended in that year. And in 1997 only the Home Theater enthusiasts had switched over to DVD.

Bookslinger said...

Here's another article about how sex is not a part of most financially successfull movies.

Full article at: http://slate.msn.com/id/2124498

Excerpt:

Sex and the Cinema
In the New Hollywood, it's a liability.
By Edward Jay Epstein
Posted Monday, Aug. 15, 2005

In the early days of Hollywood, nudity—or the illusion of it—was considered such an asset that director Cecil B. DeMille famously made bathing scenes an obligatory ingredient of his biblical epics. Nowadays, nudity is a decided liability when it comes to the commercial success of the movie. In 2004, none of the six major studios' top 25 grossing films, led by Spider-Man 2, Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Incredibles, contained any sexually oriented nudity; only one had a restrictive R rating—Warner Bros.' Troy—and that was mainly due to the film's gory violence, not its sexual content. The absence of sex—at least graphic sex—is key to the success of Hollywood's moneymaking movies. Directors may consider a sex scene artistically integral to their movie, but studios, which almost always have the right to exercise the final cut, also have to consider three factors.

Bookslinger said...

Another good article on how Hollywood makes it's profit:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2124078/

Excerpt:
Hollywood's Profits, Demystified
The real El Dorado is TV.
By Edward Jay Epstein
Posted Monday, Aug. 8, 2005,

Multiple-Choice Quiz

Is Hollywood's biggest money-maker:
a) Movies?
b) DVDs?
c) Television?

The best-kept secret in Hollywood, especially from Wall Street, is that the movie studios' biggest profit center is not theatrical movies, or even DVD sales; it is TV licensing. If the details of the profits remain clouded to outsiders, it is no accident. The studios purposely blur together their three principal revenue sources—the box office, video sales, and television licensing—into a single portmanteau category called "studio entertainment" in their quarterly and annual reports. Keeping audiences in the dark may be a time-honored Hollywood tradition, but this breakdown can be demystified by consulting the studios' internal numbers, which they furnish to the Motion Picture Association on a confidential basis.

Last year, the six major studios—Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony, and their subsidiaries—had total revenues of $7.4 billion from world box-office sales, $20.9 billion from world video sales, and $17.7 billion from world television licensing. Revenues, however, are what companies record, not what they earn. And, in the case of Hollywood, the revenues from movies, DVDs, and TV yield very different earnings.

Once upon a time—before the TV and VCR—studios earned virtually all their profits from a single source: the theater's box office. Nowadays, in the new Hollywood, the world box office is a money loser: In 2004, the studios lost an estimated $2.22 billion on the $7.4 billion they took in from the box office. (Click here to see a table of this data.) This sad reality is not a result of the high cost of making movies, inefficiencies, or of any sort of studio accounting legerdemain. The simple fact is that the studios pay more to alert potential audiences via advertising and to get movie prints into theaters than they get back from those who buy tickets. Consider, for example, Warner Bros.' movie The Negotiator, with Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. It was efficiently produced for $43.5 million, scored a world box office of $88 million, and appeared to be a modest success. In fact, Warner Bros. collected only $36.74 million from its theatrical release after it had paid check-conversion and other collection costs, the theaters had taken their cut, and the MPA had deducted its fee. Meanwhile, to corral that audience, Warner Bros.' advertising bill was $40.28 million, and its bill for prints, trailers, dubbing, customs, and shipping was another $12.32 million. So, after the movie finished its theater run, without even considering the cost of making the movie, Warner Bros. had lost $13 million. Why? For every dollar Warner Bros. got back from the box office, it shelled out about $1.40 in expenses, which was about average, if not slightly above par, for studio movies.

This might seem equivalent to the joke about a manufacturer who says, "We lose on every item but make it up on volume," except that Hollywood has another way of making up the loss—the so-called back end, which includes home video (now mainly DVD) and TV licensing.

captveg said...

Thanks for the articles, BoM-I.

The sex/nudity thing does not surprise me at all. Speaking in generalities, people would rather be teased with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge rather than have sexuality in your face.

I was watching the Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers 1935 classic Top Hat tonight and was very aware of the sexual tension between the characters (aside from the singing and dancing, the plot centers around the mistaken identity of potential lovers), but it's all beneath the surface. I wouldn't outright say it was 100% classy, but it was not in any way overt.

(By the way, the new Warner Box Set of five Astaire/Rogers films is wonderful and can be found online for about $45. Thus endeth this plug.)

Anonymous said...

Bob Ross, an LDS guy I admire greatly (I'm nondenominational Protestant) said this:

When asked about his laid-back approach to painting and eternally calm and contented demeanor, he once commented: "I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, 'Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy.' That's for sure. That's why I paint. It's because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news."

Really, if you think about it, R rated movies aren't any worse than the news. I don't see anything "wrong" with R rated movies unless they push negative values. That's where I see a problem, but even a G rated film can push negative values. People would argue the Bible is R rated, that doesn't mean you not read it. It depicts vividly what happened back then, not whitewashing the characters like the Koran does.

That said, after I became serious about being Christian, my tastes changed a lot. I mostly stopped listening to the metal, punk rock, rap, etc, that I listened to, just because I didn't like it anymore. I like girly dance music, classical music, jazz, Japanese pop, etc. It's mainly for the reason Bob Ross stated. Real life is too terrible, having experienced the terribleness of real life, why listen to music about it?

Be careful, "Gaurd your heart." If God's convicting you to not watch or listen to stuff, then don't. Don't be a "legalist" but at the same point, "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

Jonathan Scott Griffin said...

First off, Jeff, not all movies are made for entertainment value. Some are serious works of art with serious stories. Schindler's List is R and I'm glad I watched it. The movie, though gruesome and sad, was a positive life changing influence on me. While I do like G movies, I think it's silly to say that all movies need to be G. Now, does Hollywood produce too many gratuitous movies? Absolutely. There are movies that are crude for the sake of being crude, violent for the sake of being violent, etc, etc. I would love to see more G movies, but to say that all movies should be G or PG is missing the mark as well. Movies like Schindler's List and The Shawshank Redemption are absolutely inspiring. I would have no problem watching them with the Savior in the room. They are no worse than what you get in the scriptures (don't even get me started on some of those Book of Mormon and Bible stories; they would garner NC-17s some of them) and teach important lessons. They aren't meant to attract large crowed, but to teach moral lessons, and it would be a disservice to censor them, just like it would be a disservice to censor out some of the violence and gore and sex out of the scriptures.