The vast majority of films rated by the Motion Picture Association of America over the past 50 years were inappropriate for children.
That’s according to a report published by the MPAA Monday to mark its 50th anniversary of rating films. Of the 29,791 films rated by the trade association since 1968, 17,202 (57.7%) were rated R, 5,578 (18.7%) rated M/GP/PG, 4,913 (16.5%) rated PG-13 and 1,574 (5.3%) rated G. Only 524 (1.8%) received an NC-17 rating.
The ratings are primarily to provide guidance to parents, and the rating board is made up of 8 to 13 parents at any given time. The mission of the MPAA is to “maintain the trust and confidence of American parents,” wrote MPAA Chief Executive Charles Rivkin in the report.
Per the rating board’s guidelines: A G-rated movie doesn’t contain anything that might offend parents whose young children would watch the film — no offensive language, nudity, sex or violence. A PG rating means parents might consider some material unsuitable for young children — there could be some profanity, some violence or brief nudity.
If a movie features any drug usage, it should get at least a PG-13 rating, according to the MPAA. A movie with prolonged nudity that isn’t sexual in nature will also get a PG-13 rating or more, but if it’s rated PG. Use of “sexually-derived” words also require a PG-13 rating or higher.
Movies with “hard” language, graphic violence, nudity of a sexual nature, drug abuse or other scenarios the MPAA rating board deems to be “adult material” get an R rating.
Films that are only appropriate for adults are rated NC-17, though that rating doesn’t necessarily mean the movie is obscene or pornographic in nature.
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A Nielsen survey of 1,559 parents conducted on behalf of the MPAA showed that 59% strongly and 36% somewhat agreed that the ratings were helpful tools. The same survey found that 91% of parents felt they were extremely familiar or very familiar with the rating system, while 80% felt they were extremely or very familiar with the rating descriptions.
Ratings aren’t just important to parents, they’re important to film-makers as well, as a movie’s rating can affect its box office numbers. On average, R-rated films bring in less revenue than PG or PG-13 films.
Sarah Toy reports on the media for MarketWatch. She is based in New York.
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