Production kicks off today on the next installment of the Terminator franchise, Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, and the producers have announced that they are abandoning the franchise’s R rating territory for the more box office friendly PG-13 rating.
As reported in Variety, the honchos at Halcyon, the production company that scooped up the Terminator franchise rights in 2007 when Carlco went out of business, have made the decision in an effort to maximize the amount of money the film will rake in. They don’t think that the change will dramatically effect the film, noting “The ratings have changed. The PG-13 has increased in intensity.”
This news does nothing to bolster my continually dropping confidence level in the film. As I have stated before, I think that James Cameron’s two Terminator films are as finely crafted a bit of genre storytelling as can be found. They compliment each other in such a way that no further exploration of their world was needed. Which is just one of the reasons I didn’t like Terminator 3 and have had trouble being engaged by the recent Terminator: The Sarah Conners Chronicles television series. They just completely negate the first two films in both story and theme and come across as nothing more than a grab for a quick buck. It is a feeling that that nothing the article states allays.
The Variety piece points out that last summer’s PG-13 return to the previously R rated Die Hard franchise, Live Free Or Die Hard, was the most successful entry in the series, grossing approximately $382 million worldwide. Of course, the article neglects to mention that the last Die Hard film had come out in 1995 and grossed $361 million worldwide and that the first two Die Hards grossed $138.7 and $239.5 million respectively. When one factors in the rise in ticket prices since the initial Die Hard was released in 1988 and the fact that the original three movies were released on at least 25% less screens than Live Free Or Die Hard, the argument that the film was so successfully because of its PG-13 rating doesn’t seem that strong. And this is leaving out the complaints from the franchise’s fanbase that last summer’s film lacked some of the edge that the original three had.
Instead, Variety touts the producers being excited that the lower rating will allow for producers to make some cash on the side through licensing agreements for action figures and the like.
Yes, Hollywood is a business first and a truly artistic endeavor a distant second. And as a business, I am constantly dismayed by how the studios constantly seem to mismanage their franchises, only focusing on the immediate profit and not the long term one. As such, decisions are made that ultimately hurt the viability of their continuing franchises. Two years ago, Twentieth Century Fox rushed the production of X-Men 3 through in order to meet a release date, resulting in a film with an unpolished script that failed to live up to the promise of the first two films. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 from last summer met a similar fate, though the culprit here was the studio’s insistence of shoehorning the fan favorite villain Venom into the movie.
So the question becomes this- Does a studio want to maximize profit potential on one film or does it want to earn a smaller profit on that film, but insure that there is a solid audience for a series of films that will dependably generate that profit every couple of summers, for years to come? Maybe catering to a franchise’s fanbase is something that the studios should keep in mind, as happy fans are loyal fans at the box office.
Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins begins stealing money out of your wallet on May 22, 2009.