Return of the ‘R’ Rating to Summer Cinema

Over the past several summers, major studios have been reluctant to release an abundance of mainstream films with the rated ‘R’ signature stamped below it. Even franchises that were known for their ‘R’ rating were victims to the increasing trend of studios trying to cut them down to a more audience friendly ‘PG’ or ‘PG-13’ rating. Live Free or Die Hard, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Alien vs. Predator are recent cases of sequels to previous ‘R’-rated only franchises that were either edited by the studio to get the ‘PG-13’ rating or were made with the ‘PG-13’ mindset from the get-go. Even ‘PG-13’ franchises are being shaved down to a ‘PG’ rating as evidenced by last year’s summer sequels Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Evan Almighty.

Now whether the parameters that cause a film to receive the ‘R’ rating are right is certainly debatable. Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen are currently in a battle with the MPAA to get their upcoming film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, down to an ‘R’ rating from the unmarketable to a wide audience ‘NC-17’ rating.

Will Porno be an X-rated affair?

Will 'Porno' be an X-rated affair?

So it comes as a pleasant surprise after several summers of relative dormancy to see that the ‘R’ rating has returned to the forefront this summer. It’s not that I am totally against films with a less than ‘R’ rating. I just don’t appreciate it when a movie that you are watching would seen more appropriate if there was some material in it that would qualify as an ‘R’ type film. Alien vs. Predator is a big example, but at least that’s one aspect of the franchise that was fixed with the sequel.

Below, I have listed the top five ‘R’ rated opening from the past three summers.

Top R-rated Openers Summer 2006

  1. Miami Vice – $25.7 million ($63.5M total)
  2. The Omen – $16 million ($54.6M total)
  3. Snakes on a Plane – $13.8 million ($34M total)
  4. Crank – $10.5 million ($27.8M total)
  5. Waist Deep – $9.4 million ($21.3M total)

Top R-rated Openers Summer 2007

  1. Superbad – $33.1 million ($121.5M total)
  2. Knocked Up – $30.7 million ($148.8M total)
  3. Halloween – $26.4 million ($58.3M total)
  4. Mr. Brooks – $10 million ($28.5M total)
  5. War – $9.8 million ($22.5M total)

Top R-rated Openers Summer 2008

  1. Sex and the City – $57 million ($151M and counting)
  2. Wanted – $50.9 million ($129.4M and counting)
  3. Step Brothers – $30.9 million ($39.6M and counting)
  4. The Happening – $30.5 million ($64M and counting)
  5. The Strangers – $21 million ($52.6M total)

The summer of 2008 has already seen several big openings from ‘R’ rated films. Since the low point for R-rated films back in 2006, the average opening of these films has increased significantly. More importantly, this is not affecting overall box office tickets sales as some studios feared would happen. For the third year in a row, summer box office revenue has increased. This summer is even comparable to the summer of 2003, the biggest summer ever for this rating.

Top R-rated Openers Summer 2003

  1. The Matrix Reloaded – $91.8 million ($281.6M total)
  2. Bad Boys II – $46.5 million ($138.6M total)
  3. Terminator 3 – $44 million ($150.4M total)
  4. Freddy vs. Jason – $36.4 million ($82.6M total)
  5. American Wedding – $33.4 million ($104.6M total)

All of those from 2003 were sequels so naturally their openings are higher than the norm. None of the ‘R’ rated openings in the top five for this summer are sequels, which is all the more impressive. And were not even done with the summer yet. Two high profile action comedies, Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, have already been designated as ‘R’ by the MPAA, and both open in August.

Pineapple Express to be rated R

'Pineapple Express' to be rated 'R'

Let’s hope this trend continues in future summers.

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

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6 Responses

  1. […] post by Mr. Box Office SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Return of the ‘R’ Rating to Summer Cinema”, url: […]

  2. […] has come to expect from an Apatow film. ‘R’ rated films have actually performed very well at the box office this summer, especially compared to recent […]

  3. […] has come to expect from an Apatow film. ‘R’ rated films have actually performed very well at the box office this summer, especially compared to recent […]

  4. Pretty nice site, wants to see much more on it! :)

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