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What Movie Ratings Pay Off for Studios?

Disney’s animated movie recently climbed to sixth spot in the top worldwide grossing movies.

Photo ©Walt Disney Animation Studios

On March 30, Disney announced the movie Frozen had become the top-grossing animation in box office history, topping $1 billion in worldwide sales. Now the snowy tale about two sisters is inching its way up another scale.

“Why does Hollywood continue to make so many restricted movies when they don't always pay off with big returns?”
According to Box Office Mojo, Frozen is now sixth on the list of worldwide top grossing movies. Only Avatar, Titanic, Marvel’s The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Iron Man 3 have earned more money.

In an industry that tracks ticket sales like a bloodhound, those are pretty impressive numbers for a kids’ movie. But what Hollywood promotes as the best pictures of the year and what sells tickets (and maybe more importantly home video releases and downloads) aren’t always the same thing. Of the nine Academy Award nominations for Best Picture at the 2014 ceremony, six of the movies were rated R including the winner, 12 Years A Slave.

Box Office Mojo reports the historical drama has grossed $56,614,633, with a production budget of $20 million. American Hustle has grossed $150, Dallas Buyers Club $27 million, The Wolf of Wall Street nearly $117 million, Nebraska $17 million, and Her $25.5 million. All totaled, the six R-rated nominees have made around $394 million dollars.

The combined earnings of the three PG-13 rated nominees are nearly $418.6 million: Captain Phillips $107 million, Gravity $274 million, Philomena $37.6 million.

Of the Top 20 movies at the U.S. Box office for 2013, six of the films in the top half of the list were rated PG-13, two were rated PG and two others were rated G. Despicable Me 2  came in second and Monsters University placed fifth. (According to Box Office Mojo, the top grossing R-rated movie on the worldwide grossing list is The Matrix Reloaded at 57th.) Yet in 2013, 30% of the movies released had an R-rating.

So why does Hollywood continue to make so many restricted movies when they don’t always pay off with big returns? Many times it has to do with the content and the filmmakers ability to portray what they deem as real life. Universal’s distribution chief Nikki Rocco explained the position in an interview with TheWrap.

“Mainly, you want to stay true to the material.” He later added, “Another reason is to bring some diversity to the marketplace, to offer something for…everyone out there.”

And of course, there’s always that race for the Oscar.


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