Reading Between the Frames

Posted: Mar 25, 2008 11:31 AM
Reading Between the Frames

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the six major movie studios in Hollywood and helps them beat their competition, was very excited this month about touting Hollywood's record-breaking year in 2007.

Figures released by the MPAA showed that worldwide box office totals increased 4.9 percent to $26.72 billion in 2007. In those totals, the domestic box office also set a record, increasing 5.4 percent to $9.629 billion.

These figures, however, do not reflect the underlying concern movie executives have in the overall decline in movie going in the United States. Total admissions in the United States and Canada increased only 0.3 percent in 2007, to 1.4 billion tickets sold. Also, that number represents a whopping 12 percent decline from Contemporary Hollywood's best year in 2002, when it sold 1.599 billion tickets.

Furthermore, the MPAA forgot to mention that annual movie admissions for the domestic box office in 2007 are still 29 percent below the 1.98 billion admissions in the middle 1960s, before the six major Hollywood studios' immoral ratings system (G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17) came into being and alienated family audiences and mainstream moviegoers.

Considering that the population in the United States and Canada has increased from about 210 million people to more than 336 million people, the number of ticket sales in North America has continued to drop — nearly 56 percent — since 1966, from 9.43 tickets sold per person to only about 4.17 tickets sold per person annually.

The situation is even worse if you go back to 1946, the heyday of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when 55 percent of the American population, about 78 million people, went to the movies every week, for about 4 billion ticket sales. Today, only between 27 percent and 30 percent of the American people go to movies every week.

In other words, the amount of movie admissions today has declined 66 percent, or two-thirds, since the heights of the Golden Age, when "Mr. Smith [Went] To Washington" and when George Bailey learned that "It's A Wonderful Life."

In 1993, with the Movieguide Report to the Entertainment Industry, we began to how various kinds of movies have translated into sales. We have seen a dramatic increase in family films with traditional moral values based on the Bible, and many more movies with Christian content. Since then, annual ticket sales for Hollywood have increased 27.4 percent.

Furthermore, recent studies by us and other organizations, including The Nielsen Co., show G-rated movies with no sex, foul language, explicit nudity nor graphic violence make at least 3 to 5 times more money per movie at the box office than R-rated movies.

Thus, it has become ever clearer that, if Hollywood wants to make more money, it needs to ditch the cumbersome MPAA content ratings, stop making R-rated and NC-17 movies altogether, clean up the content of the remaining movies, and go back to the Code of Decency that fueled Hollywood's Golden Age from 1933 to 1966, when God and His values ruled the box office, instead of the values of senile hedonists like Hugh Hefner and angry radical atheists like Michael Moore.

Contrary to what many journalists and other pundits say, sex, obscenity and graphic violence usually don't sell all that well.

Our study shows the more graphic the sex and violence, the less likely a movie will make back its investment. All these facts and figures lead us to ask Hollywood executives and owners of America's movie theater chains one question: How many more empty seats do you want?

Most moviegoers, and most non-moviegoers for that matter, want to see good conquer evil, truth triumph over falsehood, justice prevail over injustice, and beauty overcome ugliness. They also would like to take their whole family, including their grandparents, to the movies more often.

That's why "Horton Hears A Who" was the top movie over the weekend in the United States and Canada. It also explains why "American Idol" has 25 million viewers any given night, 2½ times more than its closest competition.

The next time someone says, when an ultraviolent movie with explicit sex and nudity earns big bucks on an opening weekend, "Hollywood is just making what the people want to see," please remember that the actual facts show the exact opposite.

It's time for Hollywood to give the public what it really wants.

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