How important is a PG rating for genre films?

With the release of Prometheus, there’s been a lot of reports speculating if an R-rated genre movie can go on to become a big hit.

Truthfully, I find all of this discussion and speculation quite surprising. I was a kid when the original Alien hit theaters and generated huge amounts of cash, while Aliens also racked up the big bucks in the summer of ’86.


Of course, R ratings didn’t stop the first two Terminator movies, the Godfather franchise, The Matrix, Pulp Fiction, The Exorcist, and many other genre films from being big hits. 

It also didn’t stop the R rated comedy Ted, and Magic Mike, from coming in at number one and two at the box office respectively.

But apparently when it comes to a potential tentpole, a PG or a PG-13 is crucial, or a studio may waffle. 

We recently discussed what Dark Knight Rises might have been like if the Nolan film was R-rated, and how interesting additional R-rated major superhero movie would be. There’s been similar speculation about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter’s prospects with an R, even though it’s not a kid’s movie or a family film by any means. 

Yet as The Wrap points out, the budget for Prometheus was reportedly in the range of $130 million, and with movies costing that kind of money, it’s more important than ever to bring in kids and teens under 17, even though many under-age kids are probably getting in anyways.

The Wrap report on this is hopeful that “Hollywood’s aversion to R-rated blockbusters may weaken, and one producer told the site, “PG-13 means hitting the middle of the road – and  there’s nothing wrong with that – but you don’t get the length and breadth of what  movies can deliver.” (Actually there’s plenty wrong with the middle of the road, because a lot of movies wind up there these days, and it’s a pretty boring place to get stuck).


As The Wrap also notes, “The message from studios, producers say privately, is crystal clear. Unless it’s a comedy, earn an R at your own peril.” 

As we’ve reported before, an R rating was a big sticking point with Guilermo Del Toro’s dream project, At the Mountains of Madness, where Universal insisted a $150 million dollar horror film had to have a PG-13, and Del Toro promised he’d do his best, but if the Ratings Board wouldn’t budge on an R, what could he do? In fact, he deliberately attempted to make a PG-13 movie with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and the ratings board still gave it an R.