NC-17 and markets — a thought experiment

NC_17NC-17 is often the kiss of death. But there may be a way to fix that. Consider that DVDs often come packed with the extra footage that could not be shown (or could have been shown but only with an NC-17 rating). Why not see what the market wants? Release both versions of the film, the NC-17 and the R. Let grown-ups see the NC-17 and others see the R. For those who think that kids will sneak in, of course they will try. But if a theater wants to start serving alcohol and/or provide environments where people can see films without youngsters (Mark Cuban is pursuing this model) and enjoy the theater experience, they will handle the carding issue as needed.

As background, Cinematical explains the persistent problem of NC-17. The issue is of course what does it mean to make films that are for adult, as in grown-ups able to handle grown-up material, and would people go if more of such films were made? As the blog asks:

But if there had been more NC-17-rated films, and they actually played near you, would you have gone to see them? And if so, why? Because you expect something more titillating than the other releases to choose from? And if not, why? Are you afraid of others thinking you are going to see something dirty? Are you embarrassed about both attending and watching graphic sex on screen? Do you correlate the experience to going to a porno theater?

In other words many still see NC-17 as thrill ride of a dark nature. Yet according to Cinematical both the MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners (yes, NATO) want to get rid of the stigma. That claim has been around for some time but why do the efforts fail? Cinematical points to hypocrisy of the theater owners and the MPAA as they fail to educate and promote (read here market) the films so that they change the perception. Still could it be that there is no demand for the films? I doubt it. Just look at cable.

Cable channels do rather well (TNT is ramping up production in part because it can offer more real dramas than broadcast television) with shows such as the Sopranos, The Wire, Weeds, Battlestar Galactica, and so on that cater to an audience seeking unsanitized fare. Which brings us back to the experiment. There probably is a demand for intelligent, unsanitized film just as there is one for similar work on television. The current stigma could be reduced if not removed by releasing both the NC-17 and the R version. The NC-17 would benefit from being simply an alternate version of a mainstream film. In a way it would trade on the acceptability of the other film version and blunt the perception of seeing an “adult” film and rather might be taken as seeing a grown-up, unsanitzed one. Oh and hey Hollywood, think some folks will pay to see both versions? Seems likely a little more revenue will come in from either that group or those who would like to see a good movie but hear that that the R one fell short because of editing and timid approaches to sensitive subject matter.