If PG sells, could G be next?


EVER since he learned to read the alphabet and numbers, the game began:

"R, R, R, R, PG-13, PG-13, R, PG," he would read in that bored tone peculiar to men who have been around the block a few times -- at the time, with the help of his bike's training wheels.

"Mami," my little man would say every time we passed the big sign by the road on our way home, "why are there so-o-o many movies with the R rating or the PG-13 rating, and there's almost never any movies with a G or PG rating? And why can't I see those other movies? Huh, Mami? Why, why, why?"

Now that he's older and ever so much wiser at 6 1/2 , my older son has enlisted his 3-year-old brother to perform the almost-daily ratings reading ritual.

Lucky me. Now I get to listen to the "R, R, R . . ." reading in stereo.

Forget the G-rating. Beyond a handful of movies a year, such as "Aladdin" or "Beauty and the Beast," parents of little ones don't have much choice.

But things seem to be changing toward more family entertainment in the movie industry.

The first indication was the other day, when my kids' car script had more PGs than Rs in it.

Four of the eight movies being shown at our neighborhood theater are aimed at children: "The Sandlot," "Cop and a Half," "The Adventures of Huck Finn" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III."

"PG, PG, PG, PG, R, R, PG-13, R," my kids crooned. "When are we going to see them all?"

The pressure is on. Before, I had darn good reasons to tell the kids we couldn't go to see this film or that because it wasn't meant for children, because it glorified violence or had nasty words or "actions" they wouldn't understand (code for sex scenes). Now we have movies that are meant for children but nevertheless carry enough violence or a few bad words to earn them a PG rating.

Apparently, after a decade of Terminator/Rambo-type gore aimed at a big group of moviegoers -- teen-age boys -- Hollywood is coming around to the notion that there's money to be made from "family entertainment."

Granted, a PG rating still requires parental guidance. But at least there are more PG movies to choose from right now.

That didn't happen because government stepped in to censor movie producers. No, thankfully, it happened because the marketplace of ideas works, and money talks.

The movie industry has noticed, finally, that most R movies in recent years didn't make the kind of money expected of them.

Meanwhile, the few G and PG movies being released have made more money than expected.

Two weeks ago, for instance, "The Sandlot" ranked No. 2 at the box office in the amount it raised in gross receipts. "Cop and a Half" ranked No. 4, followed by another PG-rated movie, "Benny & Joon," "The Adventures of Huck Finn" and those pesky turtles.

Five of the top 10 box office hits two weeks ago were rated PG.

Last week, however, only four of those PG movies remained among the top 10 box-office draws. And "Indecent Proposal" was earning more than three times the top PG-rated movie, "The Sandlot," which slipped to No. 3.

But even with strong showings for some R-rated movies, there's talk that some gory scenes from a new "Terminator" film will be left on the cutting-room floor to get a PG-13 or even a PG rating.

Yes, sex still sells, to which "Indecent Proposal" can attest. Violence still sells, too. But there's also people power in numbers.

And if PG sells, maybe the studios will make more G movies, as well, and I'll be hearing, "G, G, G. . . ."

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

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