Christensen added: “R’s make less money, so you wonder who is driving that? It really is an anomaly for a business wrapped up in money.”
Christensen’s “17 Miracles,” a pioneer movie depicting the story of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, originally received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. He challenged it under the reasoning that the film is a true story, the violence is out of kilter, and nothing in the show was too graphic. The MPAA reassembled, considered his argument and changed the rating to PG for depiction of hardships and suffering, an accurate description, Christensen says.
“I did not want the stigma of a PG-13 on the film,” he said. “No one has challenged the PG rating (since the movie was released).
Kieth Merrill is an academy award-winning filmmaker and author of the new book, “The Evolution of Thomas Hall,” and Merrill can’t understand why many R-rated movies are made these days.
“Every study ever done confirms that R-rated movies are less than half as likely as PG releases to get their money back and earn a profit,” he said via email. “So why are they made? There are big egos, ‘I can do anything I want and I’ve a responsibility to impose my values on society,’ and there are frail egos, ‘Gosh, what will my peers in the movie business think of me if my film is not dark and edgy?’ Both are directly responsible for the rash of R-rated movies.”
Betsy Bozdech, the director of reviews and ratings at Common Sense Media, says filmmakers only produce what sells.
“They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t make money, therefore they are going to keep making the movies that make money,” she said. “If those happen to be R or PG-13, then that is what they are going to do.”
She illustrated her point with a few examples. For a long time directors didn’t make female comedies because audiences weren’t interested. Then “Bridesmaids” was released and earned three times its budget in the first three weeks.
“I predict we are going to see more female-driven comedies coming out,” she said.
There was an explosion of kids’ fantasy movies after “Harry Potter” became a series. Then “Percy Jackson” and “The Golden Compass” were released and no one went to see those movies, so the trend changed directions, Bozdech said.
Will PG movies ever make a comeback?
“As soon as some of them start to make a bunch of money, then yes,” Bozdech said.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: tbtoone
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