What do The Avengers, Wreck-It Ralph, and Les Misérables have in common? All three made the list of top 25 movies last year, and all feature redemptive overtones and family-friendly messages. Together, they brought in no small chunk of change: $961 million.
Most moviemakers produce films they hope will turn a profit, which is the reason some wonder why Hollywood continues to make so many R-rated films. Most R-rated flicks earn less money than G- or PG-rated ones, and much less than the most popular category: PG-13.
Among last year’s top-grossing films, six were R-rated, including Ted and Django Unchained. Six—including Brave and The Lorax—carried a PG rating. But the half-dozen R-rated films only grossed $914 million, while the six PG movies made $1.1 billion. According to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the average R-rated film makes just $16.8 million, while PG movies make three times that amount.
Pro-family entertainment publication Movieguide also released a report recently that came to the same conclusion: Family films and redemptive story lines make more money. “The evidence is abundantly clear,” Movieguide founder Ted Baehr said. “Moviegoers greatly prefer family-friendly movies.”
But Jeff Bock, vice president of Exhibitor Relations, said studios prefer R-rated films because they often cost less to produce—fewer special effects and less dialogue—so they can make more profit.
“If an R-rated movie connects with audiences at large, the payoff can be a lot bigger,” Bock told The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla. “Look at the original Hangover. That movie cost $35 million and went on to be a goldmine.” (Hangover earned $277 million in domestic ticket sales.)
NATO’s Patrick Corcoran told The News-Press that studios could make a deeper connection with audiences with a more varied slate: “R-rated movies that are going to be the big hits are far more rare than movies aimed at broader audiences.”