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By Hammad Zaidi | October 8, 2013

Welcome to the 180th edition of Going Bionic. Today we’re examining the recent rise of “R” rated comedies at the box office. While PG, and PG-13 releases continue to eat the biggest slice of the box office pie, “R” rated comedies have done so well lately, they’ve gone from being somewhat risky propositions that film studios rarely bet on, (unless they are making a sequel to a highly successful franchise like The Hangover or American Pie series of films) to becoming financially sound investments that are seeing quite a growth spurt lately.

Furthermore, we’ll also discuss how an outside factor has contributed to the success of “R” rated motion pictures. So, without further ado, let’s discover why rated “R” films.

Most Successful “R” Rated Comedies of 2013

Three of the top four, and four of the top seven comedies this year have been rated ”R.” Here’s a quick breakdown (totals round down):

Title Budget Release Date Domestic/International Total
The Heat $43 Million 9/28/2013 $159.1M/$66.9M $226.0M
We’re The Millers $37 Million 8/17/2013 $144.9M/$96M $240.9M
Identity Thief $35 Million 2/8/2013 $134.5M/$41.6M $176.1M
This is The End $32 Million 4/12/2013 $101.4M/$20.6M $122.1M

The Heat is the second highest grossing comedy domestically and third overall when adding the international marketplace, while We’re The Millers is the third highest grossing comedy domestically, but it gets moved into second place when adding its international take. Furthermore, Identity Thief slid into the fourth overall comedy spot for 2013, while This is the End enjoyed a seventh place finish.

Notable All Time “R” Rated Comedies
Here are some of the most successful comedies of all time. Generally speaking, these films were “game changers,” paving the way for like-minded films to be given opportunities.

Title Budget Release Date Domestic/International Total
Animal House $3 Million 7/28/1978 $141.6M/NA $141.6M
Something About Mary $23 Million 7/15/1998 $176.4M/$193.4M $369.8M
American Pie $11 Million 7/9/1999 $102.5M/$132.9M $235.4M
The Hangover $35 Million 6/5/2009 $277.3M/$190.1M $467.4M
Bridesmaids $32.5 Million 5/13/2011 $169.1M/$119.2M $288.3M
Bad Teacher $19 Million 6/25/2011 $100.2M/$116.1M $216.4M
Ted $50 Million 6/29/2012 $218.6M/$330.7M $549.3M

The above listed gems all have one thing in common; they were not “star vehicles,” they were “star makers.” For example, Animal House made John Belushi a film star; There’s Something About Mary made Cameron Diaz a star, The Hangover made Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifinakis stars, and Bridesmaids made Melissa McCarthy a star. Thus, instead of relying on A-list stars to draw interest to the film, these comedic classics relied on their high concept to draw interest.

Smaller Budgets, Bigger Upside
Compared to action pictures, sci-fi features, and tent pole films that are being adapted from comic book properties, “R” rated comedies tend to be quite manageable budget wise. In fact, when considering the 2013 “R” rated comedies listed earlier (The Heat, We’re the Millers, Identity Thief and This is the End), The average production budget of those films is $36,750,000, and their average worldwide gross is, $191,303,063.75.

Simply put, in 2013 so far, the top four “R” rated comedies have averaged more than 500% profit, or 5.2055 times their investment, just from the box office alone.  When adding DVD, cable, VOD and other ancillary markets, the “R” rated comedy is probably the single biggest dollar-for-dollar cash cow.

Premium Cable and Pay Cable Factors
Thanks to cable shows such as, South Park, Family Guy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Wilfred, coupled with the pay cable shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound and Down, and Veep, among others, viewing audiences have been spoon-fed so much “pushing the envelope” and “flat-out crossing the line” material, they now demand motion pictures to push the envelope even further.

In other words, audiences who gravitate to edgy comedy need feature films to either “raise the stakes” in the genre, or at least deliver the level of comedy they can already see on television, before they will pay good money to see something.

Okay, friends. That’s the insight I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, I wish you a tremendously successful week. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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