Have We Seen The End of R-Rated Blockbusters?

Illustration for article titled Have We Seen The End of R-Rated Blockbusters?

As Watchmen falls another 62% in its third weekend, is it a sign of things to come? According to rumors, the movie's failure to meet expectations may be considered the death knell for "adult" blockbusters.


Before Watchmen's release, back when we were all innocent and happy, I wondered about how much weight the movie's success or failure would have, and melodramatically concluded:

If it succeeds, then the door may be open to more and more ambitious science fiction movies (whether based on comics or not). But if it fails, then maybe we'll end up with a movie industry that thinks that Transformers and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is all that genre movies should aspire to... And that's a much greater tragedy than losing a giant alien squid for your climax.


And now IESB's anonymous source at Warners is suggesting that I wasn't entirely wrong. Whether or not you consider Watchmen's box office to be success or failure is up to you (Me, I'm on the latter side, but I know that's controversial), but the amount of money it's made may be only one of many problems for the movie, according to the site:

You can't take your kids to this one, not sure if you'd even be comfortable watching it with your mother. Don't get me wrong, I really liked it and thought it was a fantastic piece of filmmaking, but it's definitely for adults only. And no kids will be asking mommy to buy them shirts or Rorschach masks from this one.

How much of the movie going market - specifically those that go to see superhero/genre films - is cut out by rating a film R versus a PG-13? Warner Bros. thinks too much and is said to be focusing solely on PG-13 rated superhero/tentpole films only, definitely harder than the "family friendly" superhero films of Fantastic Four but not in the R rated range. Think about it, the movie going audience is "huge", now the genre/superhero movie going audience is a portion of that "huge" and the R rated/genre/superhero movie going audience is an even smaller portion of that "huge." It makes a lot of sense to make the movie for the largest audience possible and still respect the property.

The result of that school of thinking...? Warners are apparently feeling nervous about any "tentpole" movie that isn't rated PG-13. And it's not just superhero movies that may be affected:

Not that it's a superhero film, but it is a genre tentpole, Terminator Salvation, PG-13 or R? WB wants PG-13, director McG wants R just like the originals. McG was outspoken about the ratings debacle at WonderCon 2009 who said he wants the Moon Bloodgood in the rain topless scene kept in the film. WB wants it nixed to comply with the PG-13 guidelines. This was before the R-rated Watchmen premiered but the studio apparently already had the feeling that PG-13 was the way to go to make the big box office bucks with the genre.


On the other hand, you could just try making cheaper/shorter/better (delete as applicable) movies. This is, of course, all heresay and rumor right now, but keep an eye on what rating Terminator: Salvation gets, just in case.

No more R-rated Superhero/Tentpole films for Warner Brothers [IESB]


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What I don't understand is, how can the studios just make broad assumptions based entirely on rating? I understand it's a business, and making a more expensive movie open to a larger audience decreases the risk of losing money, but if it still fails, shouldn't they try to understand why, rather than just assume it must have been the rating/target audience? Surely they don't see movies based on video games as a viable genre yet, but do they look at the quality of the movies put out so far? When Dragonball fails, they'll assume it means american audiences don't want manga-based properties, rather than attribute it to the true fact that it's just a shitty movie (I admit, I could be wrong here, but I don't think so).

I also love how the studios never take part of the blame. They didn't really know how to market this to the masses, but it's our fault for not going to see it.