“Madness has gone dark. The ‘R’ did us in.”

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Universal Pictures refuses to greenlight Guillermo del Toro’s next picture At the Mountains of Madness because the director insisted on creating a film that would earn a hard ‘R’ rating. The studio concluded that it would not be able to recoup the investment in a big-budget film if it had an R rating.

Implicit in the studios reasoning is that a PG-13 rating implies a broader audience. I disagree. If the focus on the PG-13 rating is because it accesses a larger demographic, i.e. 13 yr-olds and older, does targeting this demo also imply that the content, plots, character development, and narrative styles of big budget films will be limited to what is palatable to junior high school audiences? 

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4 Responses to “Madness has gone dark. The ‘R’ did us in.”

  1. max says:

    The real issue here is the cost, not the rating. They’re looking at a $500 million break-even, so that means a very wide audience appeal.

    Keep in mind the recent amazing horror/action films that were made for relative peanuts: You could make Cloverfield 20 times, or District 9 15 times, for the cost of Mountains.

    • operator says:

      No need for hyperbolic exaggerations.

      Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (also rated “R”) made about $83m from a $19m production budget.

      I somehow doubt that he needed half a billion to make this film. Movie Insider suggests a more realistic $150m budget for Mountains.

      The studio’s reasoning remains dubious at best: teenagers are more likely to be interested in an R-rated horror film than a PG-13 (they were when I was one, anyway).

  2. Pastabagel says:

    But a wide audience appeal means a movie for 13 yr olds, or at least a movie without the complexitys or narratives that would be appealling to the college and older set.

    And why can’t the director draw an audience with an R rating? Blade Runner was a high concept, big budget picture that was rated R. So were Alien and Aliens. Having read del Toro’s script for Mountains, I think the studio knew they had a flop in the making, and decided to cut their losses.

    • nohope says:

      But a wide audience appeal means a movie for 13 yr olds

      Yes, it’s called the lowest common denominator. It’s nothing new. But these days, people have so many options for entertainment at all intellectual levels that a movie studio has to invest only in blockbusters (in 3D, too, because who’s going to pay $100 for plain-vanilla movie tickets when the DVD comes out in 6 weeks, and your TV is the size of a movie screen anyway?). When Blade Runner came out, there was no such competition. There was barely even HBO. The best stories are all written for the small screen now — and it’s a good thing, too, because episodic television gives writers a chance to explore character and story development over a number of months and years, not just 100 minutes.