For a long while, common knowledge seemed to dictate that if your movie was rated R, you were undercutting your chances at making serious cash. It was the sort of marketing wisdom that led to the rise of the PG-13 blockbuster, and for a time even ruled the home video market with "unrated" cuts promising what was too hot for theaters. But then something happened, as filmmakers and studios took a gamble on some choice R-rated pictures that turned that trend around. To the point where this year, one-third of the top 24 grossing films have the R-rating.
The figure only grows if you expand the playing field, as the top 30 grossing films expands the pool to 11 R-rated winners, and the top 40 pushes the number to a whopping 15 R rated titles that brought home the bacon. Compared to 2016's box office standings, that's 14 more movies making an R rating into piggy banks, as Deadpool was the one R-rated mega hit in the top 24 films just last year. Naturally, one has to wonder what's changed between last year and this, and the answer's pretty simple: the people behind hits like Logan have taken the R rating back.
Turn back the clock a couple of years, and you'd have seen movies like Baywatch made into watered-down PG-13 comedies, films like Get Out being released on an indie platform that would have barely gotten views with an R rating in tact, or movies like Logan never existing. And yet, the decision making that might have lead to 2017's disastrous summer box office also may have lead to the R-rated renaissance that landed on the doorstep of various Hollywood studios this year. With the powers that be allowing those three projects, as well as numerous others, to be made for a more mature audience, those films managed to win a wider audience than if they were made with the usual four quadrant model.
But what could this mean going forward? Well, Hollywood, like most other markets of volatility, can lead to periods of boom and bust. As the PG-13 safety model starts to bust, we'll more than likely see a boom of R-rated proportions. Though it would help if this potential growth pattern kept in mind the fact that the material getting the R ratings are films that truly earned that standing. Just as a PG-13 version of IT or Kingsman: The Golden Circle could damage the respective studios that made them, an R-rated version of any number of projects that are on the table are just as damning. Pretty soon, stories in The Washington Post about eight out of 24 films being R-rated success stories could go straight back to reports of just one project making the grade.
With 2017 almost wrapped up, there's still a chance that more R-rated films will creep into the top 24 films of the year. But even with the standings we see now, it's a fair bet that more adult-intended projects for unexpected source material will be on their way. Take a look at our 2017 and 2018 release guides yourself, and feel free to peg out the films you think strike it big with an R rating in the comments below.
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