Logan and the R-Rated Movie, What the Box Office Tells Us

The Hollywood Reporter issued the weekend box office report this morning with good news for Fox: Logan, the final installment of the “Wolverine” franchise and the last Hugh Jackman led X-Men film, grossing a grand total of $85.3 million at the weekend box office, with a global turnout of $237.8 million (an additional $152.5 million). Pamela McClintock notes:

“Overseas, Logan opened No. 1 in 80 markets and is the third-biggest debut for Fox International behind X-Men: Days of Future Past ($172 million) and Avatar ($164 million). After China, the next biggest market was the U.K. ($11.4 million), followed by South Korea ($8.2 million), Brazil ($8.17 million) and Russia ($7.1 million).”

Continuing what hopes to be a trend thanks to the success of last year’s Deadpool, Fox seems to be telling others that superhero movies do not have to restricted to the PG-13 demographic; that an R-rated film can be profitable if it is made under the right circumstances and has the right elements. The proof of this can be found by looking at the exact opposite spectrum in The Lego Batman Movie, which in its fourth week has a cumulative box office of $148.6 million, its weekend box office for the week giving it $11.7 million according to The Hollywood Reporter.

It should be noted that both Logan and The Lego Batman Movie are superhero films, which brings into question why they are so successful to begin with. Part of the answer, may lay in Deadline’s observation earlier this week:

“The studio {Fox} has truly changed the game on the gravitas of superhero movies by making the characters edgy and rooting them in reality. Some rival studios out there aren’t swallowing this well, because they can’t do this with their superhero properties; more precisely they can’t have their comic book feature adaptations rated R for the sake of their brand or the superheros themselves” (D’Alessandro, updated March 5th).

The superhero genre is a genre in which the fans have immense power and control through audience response; this is because the characters in the films are well-established and, especially in the case of the X-Men which focuses heavily on the outsider trope, easy to relate to. Because of this power that fans possess it makes sense to market to the strongest pool of fans, those who have grown up with the X-Men films (and in some cases comic books, and the 1980’s TV show, but more-so the early 2000 films) who predominately seem to watch R-rated movies if they watch movies at all.

In the coming months, we as an audience may see a shift in the R-rated movie, one that focuses less on gore, violence, and sex, and focuses on the character; or at the very least, presents a framework for the gore, violence and sex to exist instead of existing for the sake of a rating. When that day comes, it will be a day of change in Hollywood, one that may force studios to re-brand their concepts about what an R-rated actually is and if there is one thing to reflect that it is the box office numbers of Logan.

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