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


‘Dark Knight’, ‘Brothers’ Weekend Actuals for July 25-27

The weekend actuals are in, and most films were slightly understimated, with the exception of The Dark Knight and The X-Files: I Want to Believe.

The Dark Knight‘s official second weekend tally is $75.2 million, off less than 1% from the $75.6 million estimated on Sunday morning. That number is still well more than enough to claim the biggest second weekend of all time, and the film is still on pace to top Iron Man today to become the biggest hit of the year.

Step Brothers fared even better during its opening weekend than initailly projected by its studio on Sunday. Step only fell 6% on Sunday, which caused the $30 million estimate to raise 3% to $30.9 million. The X-Files: I Want to Believe wasn’t so lucky as the film was overstimated by 2% causing the actual numbers to fall to $10 million.

Meanwhile, Sony is attempting to push You Don’t Mess with the Zohan over $100 million as the film rose 5% to a $385,400 weekend despite losing about 15% of its theaters. This is likely the beginning of its secondary run in discount theaters. Total stands at $98.3 million, and it might take every single day of Zohan‘s run to pass $100 million.

Here are the top ten actuals for the weekend with my Thursday predictions in parentheses next to the actual number followed by the percentage drop from last weekend and then each film’s total.

  1. The Dark Knight – $75.2 million ($73M prediction), -53%, $313.8M total
  2. Step Brothers – $30.9M ($25.5M), NEW, $30.9M total
  3. Mamma Mia! – $17.7M ($16.9M), -36%, $62.6M total
  4. The X-Files: I Want to Believe – $10M ($14.8M), NEW, $10M total
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth – $9.7M ($8.1M), -21%, $60.5M total
  6. Hancock – $8.3M ($7.8M), -41%, $206.5M total
  7. Wall-E – $6.4M ($6.6), -36%, $195.3M total
  8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army – $5.1M ($5.2M), -50%, $66.1M total
  9. Space Chimps – $4.5M ($5M), -37%, $16.2M total
  10. Wanted – $2.7M ($2.8M), -46%, $128.6M total

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘Brothers’ Step Over ‘X-Files’, ‘Mamma Mia!’ Holds Well

<< ‘Dark Knight’ Crowned Again

Step Brothers had a decent second place opening with an estimated $30 million from 3,094 theaters. The Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly starring comedy was their first collaboration since Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which opened to $47 million nearly two years ago. The start may have been somewhat lower than Talladega‘s, but that comedy was rated PG-13 and opened in a much less crowded field. Brothers debuted to nearly double the opening of Ferrell’s last R-rated comedy, Semi-Pro, which bombed earlier this year. If the film is able to post decent holds over the next few weeks, a $100 million final tally could be in order. However, direct competition is looming over the next weeks with Pineapple Express opening August 6 and Tropic Thunder launching August 13.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe debuted poorly, with an estimated fourth place $10.2 million debut from a probably too wide 3,185 theaters. That opening was a third of the $30.1 million that The X Files: Fight the Future debuted with a decade ago, and tickets were much cheaper back then to boot. The X-Files brand lost its cultural relevance several years ago when the show ended with less than spectacular viewership so only the die-hard fans showed up on its opening weekend.

Holdovers generally had much smaller declines than last weekend thanks to lower competition from openers.

Mamma Mia! posted a better hold than Hairspray had last year. Mamma Mia!‘s third place $17.9 million weekend represents just a 36% decline from last weekend’s already record breaking opening for a musical. It’s total stands at a potent $62.7 million. Hairspray descended 42% in its second weekend and finished up with an impressive 4.33 multiplier (total divided by opening weekend). Mamma Mia!‘s multiplier could be even larger meaning the film could finish north of $125 million.

Journey to the Center of the Earth continues to impress earning $9.4 million and dropping a small 24%. After three weekends, Journey has now carved out $60.2 million. Without much in the way of direct competition the rest of the summer, the film now stands a shot at finishing over $100 million. Regardless, the Brendan Fraser starrer has performed very well at its digital 3D locations, which should convince many more theater owners to adopt the technology.

In sixth place, Hancock dropped a decent 42% with $8.2 million in its fourth weekend. Total stands at $206.4 million. Wall-E finally showed some typical Pixar legs as the film dropped 37% with $6.3 million. After five weeks, the lovable robot has raked in $195.2 million.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army posted a much better hold than last weekend since it didn’t have another new superhero opening to contend with. HBII dropped 51% for a $4.9 million and a $65.9 million running tally. A $75 million total is likely. Space Chimps added $4.4 million more this weekend, and the computer animated film has only collected a weak $16 million after ten days of release. The film will be lucky to finish much over $25 million. Spending its final week in the top ten, Wanted grabbed $2.7 million and has shot up $128.6 million after five weeks. About $135 million is the final target.

Next weekend, Brenden Fraser returns in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which will try to dethrone The Dark Knight from the top spot. Kevin Costner leads the older skewing comedy Swing Vote, which is currently not tracking very well, but there’s still a week to go.

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘Dark Knight’ Crowned Again, ‘Brothers’ Step Over ‘X-Files’

The Dark Knight kept a firm grip atop the North American box office this weekend while establishing several new records in the process. Meanwhile, Step Brothers out-grossed fellow opener The X-Files: I Want to Believe by a nearly 3 to 1 margin.

The Dark Knight made off with an estimated $75.6 million to easily lead the box office for a second weekend. It’s the film film since Iron Man, over two months ago, to stay at the top position for back-to-back frames. That figure beats the $72.2 million take from Shrek 2 to establish a new record for the largest second weekend ever. Knight has now collected $314.2 million giving it the highest total ever after ten days. It’s now less than a day away from topping Iron Man to become the biggest hit of 2008. It also demolished the record for the fastest film to reach $300 million, doing it in just ten days. The old record was 16 days set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Knight is now easily on pace to become the fastest film to $400 million. That milestone will fall by the end of its fourth weekend, at the very latest.

Dark Knight‘s 52% drop is an amazing hold for a blockbuster film with such upfront demand. By comparison, Dead Man’s Chest, another previous opening weekend record holder, dropped a slightly steeper 54% in its sophomore weekend in July 2006. Dead Man’s Chest holds after its second weekend were softer, and it finished with a 3.12 multiplier (total divided by opening weekend). If the latest Batman film followed the same pattern, it would end up with just under $500 million in total ($494M to be precise), but the slightly better second weekend hold suggests that the Caped Crusader could be able to become only the second film in history to cross the half a billion dollar barrier. More >>

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘Brothers’ a ‘Step’ Ahead of ‘X-Files’ on Opening Day

Step Brothers easily won the battle on Friday between the two new openers. Step Brothers made an estimated $11.2 million on Friday, according to The Numbers, and that will likely translate to about $30-$31 million for the weekend, depending on how accurate the Friday estimate is. The X-Files: I Want to Believe had a miserable opening day, grossing an estimated $4.8 million. Normally, a fanboy film like, especially one based off a television series, sees a sizable drop on Saturday. The good news for the latest X-Files film is that the film looks to be drawing in a mainly older demographic so a Saturday rise is possible. Still, at best, X-Files 2 will only manage a $13-$13.5 million opening weekend, which is less than half of the first X Files.

Meanwhile, The Dark Knight continues its amazing run. It added another $23.4 million on Friday, which should translate to a $77 million second weekend and $316 million running tally. This will set records for largest second weekend and the fastest film to break $300 million, beating Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest to the milestone by nearly a week.

Full analysis to come on Sunday when official weekend estimates are released.

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘Step Bros.’, ‘X-Files’ Try to Take Down ‘The Dark Knight’

This weekend The Dark Knight will try and establish some more records as it enters its second weekend. The Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly starring comedy, Step Brothers, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the second film adaptation to the once popular sci-fi television series, will both try and steal some business from Batman.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight has already set a gargantuan number of records, and this weekend, more should continue to fall. I’ve already detailed exactly what records Knight has broken thus far (click here for the article), but I’ll sum up the main records. It’s the quickest film to both $100 million and $200 million. Knight also lodged the biggest opening day, weekend, and week.

The largest second weekend ever is the $72.2 million take from Shrek 2 over the lucrative 2004 Memorial Day weekend frame. To match or beat that number, The Dark Knight would have to fall 54% or less from its opening weekend. For a sequel with such a huge debut, that may seem hard to accomplish at first glance. After all, the previous weekend record holder, Spider-Man 3 dove 62%, but Dark Knight has much better word-of-mouth, and the potential for repeat business is high. Instead, Dark Knight‘s hold should be comparable to another previous record holder, 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. That film also opened in July and fell 54% in its second weekend. Knight’s daily patterns during the week have closely followed Dead Man’s Chest and the level of competition is also very similar so a similar drop should occur giving Dark Knight about a $73 million second weekend and a running total of $312 million, which would easily be the largest ten day start in history.

Step Brothers will likely open to a liitle more than half of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby‘s $47 million debut due to tougher competition, a lower theater count, and a harsher ‘R’ rating. Step, however, does benefit from being the first high profile comedy to target the 17-30 age group in over a month. About $25 million or so should result, which would have seemed sub-par if it wasn’t for Semi-Pro bombing earlier this year.

Step Brothers

The latest X-Files film will likely have a very disappointing opening this weekend. The X Files: Fight the Future launched in theaters to a potent $30.1 million en route to an $84 million total. Unfortuantely for the new X-Files, that was a decade ago when the series viewership was at its highest. The show has now been off the air for six years, and the last few seasons saw a significant drop-off in the ratings. Plus, on Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews are only at 31% positive versus 64% positive for the 1998 X Files. All of this combined with huge competition from the Caped Crusader suggests an opening of just $15 million.

I Want to Believe

Predictions for the weekend of July 25-27, 2008:

  1. The Dark Knight – $73 million, -54%
  2. Step Brothers (3,094 theaters) – $25.5 million, NEW
  3. Mamma Mia! – $16.9 million, -39%
  4. X-Files: I Want to Believe – $14.8 million, NEW
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth – $8.1 million, -34%
  6. Hancock – $7.8 million, -44%
  7. Wall-E – $6.6 million, -34%
  8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army – $5.2 million, -49%
  9. Space Chimps – $5 million, -30%
  10. Wanted – $2.8 million, -45%

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers