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R-Rated Movie Revenue Lowest in 25 Years as Family-Friendly Films Top the Box Office

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Moviegoers are making their voices heard in a powerful way, declaring with their wallets that they'd much rather watch clean movies. 

R-rated movies are no longer filling up the cash registers at local theaters, and this trend, according to numerous media outlets, has been ongoing for several years. 

It also seems studio executives may have finally taken notice of the R-rated films' poor performance on local screens and have moved them to other venues. 

Axios reports so far this year, the percentage of box office revenue that has gone toward R-rated films is the lowest it's been in over 25 years. 

According to the outlet, films with graphic content like nudity and violence are being pushed to at-home streaming, while more family-oriented action and adventure franchises are being shown in theaters. 

Even though this year's box office receipts are up when compared to this time last year, they are still down more than 30% when compared to 2019, according to Axios

According to The Numbers, the majority of movies that were shown in theaters over the past two years were PG-13.  And what's even more notable is that every movie that grossed over $100 million in 2021 was rated PG-13.

So cleaner movies result in more profits. So why doesn't Hollywood respond? Give the audience what they want, right? 

Americans Have Wanted Clean Movies for Years

The editorial board of the Deseret News noted in 2010 that Americans wanted cleaner movies in theaters, so they could enjoy them with their families. 

"The entertainment industry is a business that, like any other, relies on profits to survive. Its leaders even have been fond of mouthing support for the free market, saying people should be free to watch what they want without government interference. And yet something other than a profit motive seems to be at work when it comes to the products they produce," the board said in its op-ed. 

The op-ed noted at the time that even though cleaner movies make more money, Hollywood still produces more Rated R movies than any other movies. 

"We're not inclined to believe in nefarious conspiracy theories, but the least that can be said here is that Hollywood is out of touch with its audience. Perhaps this has to do with the personal tastes of industry officials and producers, many of whom live lives far different from that of the average American," the op-ed contended. 

"By simply removing several unnecessary swear words (which hardly could be considered art), they could lower a film's rating and earn 25 to 35 percent more in profits. That could translate into tens of millions of dollars," Deseret News contends. "It also could translate into cleaner entertainment, which would mean a cleaner retelling of things one has seen on the screen and a gradual elevation of the culture in general. That's what the market wants, if anyone is listening."

Has It All Been About 'Desensitization'?

Later in an op-ed for Fox News titled It's Time to Get Real About 'R' Rated Movies, Tim Winter, the president of the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment, wrote: "Parents want a commitment from the entertainment industry to curtail on-screen violence, and they deserve the industry's follow-through on that commitment. They are looking for Hollywood to stop marketing violent media products to their kids. They are looking for a ratings system that actually tells them what they need to know in order to make the best possible choices for their families."

Focus on The Family noted in a blog post, the thousands of hours of entertainment the average person ingests every year. Then people wonder how did entertainment get so obsessed with sex and violence?

The blog also provided an answer. 

"Desensitization. Society didn't go to bed one night with one set of values and wake up the next morning with an entirely different set. It's been a gradual process of getting more and more comfortable with lower and lower standards," Focus on The Family said.

'For the Sake of Our Children': Violent Movies and Kids

Does watching violent movies directly affect children? 

Joyce Estes, director of the Northwest Missouri Children's Advocacy Center, told the St. Joseph News-Press that unlike an adult, kids have no filter to process violence or profanity and can be changed by it. 

"It does affect them. They see that and they take that in and that becomes part of who they are because that's what they're learning," she said.

Past studies, including one in 2010 in Prevention Science, a scientific journal of the Society for Prevention Research, have shown that R-rated and violent movies may cause children to try alcohol at an early age because of its glorification, as well as becoming desensitized and violent, The News-Press reported. 

Despite the desires of parents and the risks to children, movie executives still consistently push the envelope. Ben Kayser, the managing editor of Movieguide noted in 2016 what he called "the dawn of the R-Rated Superhero movie."

He wrote the movie Deadpool "opened the floodgates of what a superhero movie could get away with in terms of hard R-rated content and still make money. . . a lot of money."

"The worst thing about R-rated superhero movies is that they pervert the very reason they're powerful stories," he explained. "Superhero movies shouldn't be reflections of the brokenness around us; they should be projections of what we want our society to be. Throwing out catch phrases like 'gritty' or 'realistic' are simply excuses to shock audiences with graphic content, and then convince them that it's somehow better artistically because of it."

"For the sake of our children, though, it's time that people are much more vocal about the content they don't want exposed to society's children," Kayser wrote. "That may require some sacrifice, however – the sacrifice of living by example for the children we're protecting and practicing self-control in the content we ourselves view as adults."

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