Profits Climb Sharply
By Shifting to Family Films
By Dick Rolfe
What makes for a successful
movie? Some people point to box office receipts, or to
awards and accolades. For others, it’s the feeling one gets
after experiencing a compelling story as a member of the
audience. While all of those reasons are valid, I’m sure you
agree that movies are not made in a vacuum. It takes a
successful, sometimes mysterious blend of creative talent,
financial resources, and, of course, a large audience.
Ultimately, the road to success is paved with profits, and
the bottom line is the bottom line.
For some filmmakers,
profits equate to specific content formulas. There seems to
be a reigning consensus in the industry that if a movie
contains a certain amount of sex, profanity and violence, it
has a better chance of being a financial success.
To determine whether that
was the case, The Dove Foundation commissioned two
Film Profitability Studies, one in January of 1999 and
one just released in June of 2005. Both studies evaluate
the gross revenue and expenses of thousands of the leading
films, and compare the average gross profits per film by
each MPAA ratings category.
We hired the leading media
research company in the industry, Kagan Media Appraisals to
gather the data, with the finance department of Seidman
College of Business providing the analysis. The data
includes worldwide revenues from box office, television and
video/DVD. Major expenses, such as production, exhibitors’
fees, printing and advertising, and video/DVD duplication
and distribution costs are calculated. Revenue does not
include any income from ancillary sources such as toy
In the ten-year study
released in January of 1999, the average G-rated film was
eight times more profitable than its R-rated counterpart.
The 2005 study which can be downloaded from our website reports an even greater
disparity between R- and G-rated fare.
Analysis of the 3,000 most
widely-distributed movies released between January 1989 and
December 2003 shows the profit ratio jumped to 11:1 in favor
of G-rated films.
Put another way, over 15
years, the average R-rated movie made $7 million, while the
average G-rated film made $79 million.
WOW! Then why does
Hollywood make so many R-rated movies (51% of all films
There is an obvious
disconnect between Hollywood and the family audience. Too
often, the bottom line for many in the industry is a statue
or a plaque, and not a paycheck. The reason? An Oscar or
Golden Globe guarantees many future high-end paychecks for
an actor, director or writer who has one. And yet, over time
it’s been proven that there is no consistent correlation
between industry awards and profits.
Hollywood is worried about
the recent decline in attendance and the resulting loss of
profits. It has had a negative impact on the movie business.
Teens have been the primary target audience for films over
the past several years. Here’s the chicken-egg argument; did
Hollywood create movies that attracted a teen audience, or
did they make movies to serve a teenage audience that was
already there? And do the majority of teenagers really want
crude, rebellious, mean-spirited, excessive movies with
explicit sex, exploitive nudity, vulgar language and
exploding body parts?
Whatever the industry
thinks of teenagers, the real audience is the family. This
has been proven time and time again by the tremendous
financial success of such G-rated blockbusters as Finding
Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Polar Express, Princess
Diaries, Santa Clause II. Even family-friendly PG-rated
action and drama films like Miracle, Radio, and National
Treasure were big profit makers.
movie-goers are voting with their feet, and walking away
from R-rated movies at the box office. There are too few
movies of good taste to keep them coming back.
If filmmakers will turn
around and begin catering to the family audience with high
quality, wholesome movies, they will reap their reward in
Hopefully, this study will
get the attention of filmmakers and cause them to focus on
family-friendly movies as the new “Gold Standard.”
The Dove Foundation is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to
encourage and promote the creation, production,
distribution and consumption of wholesome family
entertainment. We are supported primarily by donations
from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood
in a more family-friendly direction. All donations are
Copyright © 2005 The Dove Foundation. All rights