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BYU study finds PG-rated films make most money

Published: Friday, Oct. 22 2010 6:19 p.m. MDT

PROVO — A Brigham Young University study found that more than half of the movies Hollywood makes are rated R. But if they were tweaked to get a lower rating, they'd make more money.

BYU economics student Craig Palsson says with movies on the edge between R and PG-13, the R movie makes 40 percent less. Movies on the edge of PG and PG-13 make more money if they get a PG rating.

"PG and PG-13 movies by themselves average about the same amount of revenue. R-rated movies average about half of that revenue," he said.

Palsson did the study with fellow student Jared Shores. They conducted a statistical analysis of budget and box office figures from 1995 to the present. They say lower-rated movies generally gain a broader audience (families going to see a movie together), so the study controlled for budget and revenue.

The students used the ratings services ScreenIt and Kids-in-Mind for their data set that included the level of profanity, sex and violence in each movie.

Even though the numbers show that a lower-rating will mean higher revenue, there is still a lack of the more so-called family friendly movies out there. Palsson said about 55 percent of movies are rated R, roughly 35 percent are PG-13, around 10 percent are PG, and only 3 percent are G.

Palsson said they looked at content and how it affected ratings, and it was interesting to see that profanity far outweighed the other content indicators in determining a rating.

Shores said in some cases investors should request that a film be re-cut and resubmitted to get a more profitable rating.

"It has a kind of dichotomy of, yes the studios want to make money, but when you go into filmmaking, it's like any other art. You want to express yourself in an artistic form that is unhindered by your business aspirations," said Palsson.

The study was funded through BYU's Office of Research and Creative Activities.

e-mail: mrichards@desnews.com

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