Monday, January 14, 2008

What's with all this PG-13 stuff?

I was just looking through the 2007 figures on boxofficemojo and there really is some interesting stuff going on. Consider the following:

Total Movies: 407 (I'm assuming this is MPAA rated movies that had theatrical releases)
Total Gross at Box Office: $9,222,500,000.00

G Movies released: 8 for a 2.0% market share
G Movies Gross: $372,300,000 for a 4.0% market share

PG Movies released: 61 for a 15.0% market share
PG Movies Gross: $2,062,400,000 for a 22.4% market share

PG-13 Movies released: 132 for a 32.4% market share
PG-13 Movies Gross: $,4,462,000,000 for a 48.4% market share

R Movies released: 204 for a 50.1% market share
R Movies Gross: $2,321,200,000 for a 25.2% market share

NC-17 Movies released: 2 for a 0.5% market share
NC-17 Movies Gross: $4,600,000 for a negligible amount of market share.

Before I get into what I think this means and where I think this is leading us, I should preface all this by saying this blog is about horror, but don't mistake "R" for "horror" in this case. Only one of the top 5 grossing R rated movies, "Saw IV", would actually be considered a "horror". Two of them were comedies. In fact, "Saw IV", which came in at #5 overall, grossed almost $60Mill less than #4, "Superbad", which pulled in $121Mill. I should also quickly say that this is, of course, not to say that the economics of actually producing a horror movie are bad, as I do believe that horror is consistantly the most profitable genre. This is all about box office trends and what's going on with the studios... and here's what's going on: PG and PG-13, which are basically the same, made up for 30.7% of all movies made and brought in 70.3% of the box office gross! So, what the hell is going on?

I think there's a lot of righteous folks who would tell you that this shows that people just don't want R rated movies anymore, they want family friendly movies. People are sick of sex and violence and want a fun movie that everyone can enjoy... Well, let's look at the top 5 grossing movies of 2007, which all happen to be rated PG or PG-13. There's "Spider-Man 3", "Shrek the Third", "Transformers", "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". So, 4 sequels and a franchise movie. So, do we all want to watch PG rated movies like "Underdog" and "Wild Hogs" or were the studios just saying, "well, all our big films on our slate have a built in audience, so let's just make sure they're all PG rated, so that everyone and their dog can go see them". Does that mean that the studios are turning their big, mainstream theatrical releases into mindless pabulum for the masses?

I think so. The studios dump so much money into their big movies that they essentially require them to be PG, so the biggest potential audience can go see them. Why cut off consumers? Further, this is also why the only 'big' horror movies that come out in the theaters are remakes, sequels or have some name attached.... if you can't prove to the executives that you have a built in audience, ready to go see it regardless of how it turns out, good luck getting a green light. Sadly, this means that film has become less an art and more so a marketing project. That's if you can call films like "Hatchet", "28 Weeks Later" or "The Host" 'art' with a straight face... I can.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? Well, don't fret. This isn't the end of new, cutting edge horror. In fact, I think we may be on the verge of a rebirth. There's a very healthy straight-to-DVD market for horror and there's lots of ways to find new titles, including magazines like Fangoria or Rue Morgue, as well as sites like this one. Where I think we're going to notice huge growth is in the horror film festival circuit. You want to see new horror on the big screen? It's going to be at a festival and chances are there's a festival going on near you. (in fact, you can check our list of festivals here) I think the festivals are going to end up being like rock concerts for horror fans. New horror festivals are popping up all the time (please tell me if I'm missing any from my list) and attendance has never been higher. What's going to happen is, much like underground music, films will get a buzz and tour city to city on festival circuits until the big players hear about them. Then, with any luck for the filmmakers, some will get picked up by major studios for a theatrical release... after the studios make a few cuts and edits so they're rated PG-13 and can reach that bigger audience.

No comments: