C'MON HOLLYWOOD: More movies for grown-ups!
Take a look at JoBlo.com’s box-office recaps from the last few weeks. Notice any trends? Movies that skew younger, like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2, JACKASS 3D, and SAW 3D all had huge openings, but in their second weekends all had stiff declines. While they’ll all be considered financially successful (well, at least JACKASS and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY will), they lacked “legs”- meaning they sank like a stone once their core audience flocked to see them opening weekend.
At the same time, films that has solid, if less spectacular openings, but skewed older- all held up remarkably well. THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE TOWN are both closing on $90 million, while RED, in its fourth weekend, is still in the top 5, and has made over $70 million, and could potentially cross the magic $100 Million mark.
To varying degrees, these were all films that were targeted at adults, and thank God, audiences actually showed up to see them in theaters. I think it’s an important lesson for Hollywood, as it proves that films made for adults can still make money, provided, of course, that they are good.Hopefully this will lead to a trend seeing the release of more films geared to adults. But, I think Hollywood needs to go further. Of those three films, only THE TOWN carried an R-Rating. THE SOCIAL NETWORK was fine at a PG-13, but RED felt shoe-horned into a more accessible PG-13, and could have been even better if R.
Even worse is the case of WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. The original WALL STREET was a hard R, but in the sequel, you get curiously mild-mouthed brokers, and a romantic subplot centered on a couple of kids played by Shia LaBeouf, and Carey Mulligan. Meanwhile, Michael Douglas, the ONLY reason anyone even bothered seeing the film, is regulated to the background, and the adult audience that would have gone to see it is alienated.
Being R-rated, of course the audiences will be restricted somewhat, but if the budgets are capped at a reasonable number, there’s no reason these films can’t be profitable. THE TOWN cost $35 million, and has already broken $150 million worldwide. Once it hits DVD/blu-ray, it’ll become even more profitable. So why the hell is everything mainstream made PG-13?
What's ironic is that all of the films that I listed as having had huge opening weekends, but skewed younger, were rated R! So the myth that R-rated movies can't rake in big box-office is just that- a myth.
Back in the eighties and nineties, it wasn’t unusual for major blockbusters to be R. Think of TRUE LIES, or TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. Both of these films set records for film budgets, and both were mega-hits. One might argue that it was the PG-13 takeover that contributed to the decline of all the great action heroes of yesteryear, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone. BUT, the funny thing is, Sly just had a $100 million + blockbuster that was…you guessed it…R! It even beat PG-13 action flicks with much higher budgets, like THE A-TEAM, and KNIGHT & DAY. So why the constant need for PG-13?
In some ways, it feels like we’re going back to the way films were in the days of the production code, when no ratings existed, and everything had to be more or less suitable for family viewing (although clever directors like Billy Wilder, and Alfred Hitchcock learned to use these sanctions to their advantage). Nowadays, pretty much every major film is PG-13, but as an adult, I feel that those films lack the edge I want. For something like INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT, SCOTT PILGRIM, etc., it doesn’t really matter if it’s PG-13, as it won’t necessarily be made better with swearing and graphic violence. Ditto IRON MAN, something like TRON: LEGACY, SHERLOCK HOLMES, etc. There's nothing wrong with mass-audience popcorn films that are fun for every member of the family. But then, look at something like LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, and see how’s it’s been virtually castrated into a PG-13. Same thing goes for a relatively tough film like TAKEN- that was trimmed at the last second to get the rating toned down.
What we need are alternatives for adults, lest they all dedicate themselves solely to watching TV, where- on channels like AMC, FX, HBO, and SHOWTIME, courageous, adult programming IS being made. Patton Oswalt was right when he said TV now is like films were in the seventies. You think we’ll ever get a film like THE EXORCIST, or CHINATOWN made nowadays? Back in the day, those were BIG blockbusters. Now, they’d be indies at best. In the case of CHINATOWN, I doubt it could ever get made at a decent budget, while THE EXORCIST would be cut to pieces, and surely made PG-13 (at least until the inevitable, UNRATED DVD). But on TV, we can get long form, adult dramas in a variety of genres like BREAKING BAD, THE WALKING DEAD, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, and MAD MEN. Heck, with the high production values, I doubt you’d ever be able to tell they were made for TV if you didn’t know better.
So please Hollywood, take the success of R-Rated films like THE TOWN, and adult skewing films like THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and RED, and make more of them- so that as adults, we can reclaim our place in movie theaters around the globe. And if you’re going to make a hard-edged action, please do the right thing and give us an R-rating so that the film will have some balls!
|Extra Tidbit:||Any PG-13 movies that would have been better R?|