R-Rated Superheroes: A Hudson Valley Perspective
Trends in Hollywood are nothing new. For the longest time, Westerns dominated the landscape with John Wayne and company, becoming the staple of American cinema throughout the 1960s. After the release of “Star Wars” in 1977, the sci-fi genre grew exponentially, and it continues to pop out several blockbusters per year. These trends often impact the state of the industry, for better or for worse. Perhaps no trend has had a bigger impact on movies today than the rise of comic book and superhero adventures.
First, a little context. For most of the 21st century, studios analyzed the market’s demographics and determined that in order to maximize profit, comic book films must fall into the PG-13 rating. This strategy has clearly seemed to work, as teens along with young adults consistently have provided the greatest ticket sales for the genre. Studios had tried R-rated movies within the genre in the past, but to no real success as both “Blade” (1998) and “Watchmen” (2009) were considered disappointments at the box office. Then came along a movie by the name of “Deadpool” (2016), which went on to break records as the highest-grossing R-rated film in HISTORY. This shocked studio executives at 20th Century Fox, who came to the conclusion that there was in fact an audience for R-rated comic book stories, hence the choice to release “Logan,” Hugh Jackman’s last movie as Wolverine, with an R-rating this past weekend.
This past Friday, I bought an 8:00 p.m. ticket to a screening of Logan at my local theater, Roosevelt Cinemas in Hyde Park. Without spoiling anything and if any parents are wondering about the validity of the rating, I will quickly mention here that this movie could be a game-changer to the film industry, as it builds upon the success that “Deadpool” began at this time last year, and the R-rating is well warranted.
After the screening ended, I decided to ask parents, some of whom had brought their kids to the film, to describe their thoughts surrounding the violence and brutality that was showcased throughout the movie. One father, who had brought his 14-year-old son and asked to remain anonymous, talked about how he expected the film to have “Marvel” type violence, likely referring to films such as “The Avengers.” Coming out, he added that in his mind, the R-rating should be saved for films related to “adult topics and humor rather than silly fantasy stories.” Two brothers who happened to be twins, age 18 and preferred not to have their names shared with the public shared that they would be in “double trouble” if they had taken their younger brother, who is 14, to see this movie.
Finally, I spoke with Roosevelt Cinemas manager Matt Neur over the phone after the box-office numbers of Logan’s opening weekend were released, with the film already having generated over $85 million in four days according to Rotten Tomatoes. I asked Neur about the direction of the industry moving forward and the impact these new R-rated blockbusters could have on local cinemas as well as the big chains. When asked about the trend itself, Neur agreed that “it does seem to be headed in that direction, especially with the success of ‘Deadpool’ last year,” but he also pointed out studio executives should not throw away their past research regarding the success of PG-13 comic book movies as “they will lose a significant pool of people, mainly children and teenagers, which is something that they should keep in mind when choosing new ideas moving forward.”