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R rating for 'Prometheus': Will it hurt the film commercially?

May 7, 2012 |  4:47 pm

Fox confirmed Monday that “Prometheus,” the much-anticipated sci-fi thriller from Ridley Scott, would be released as an R-rated film when it hits U.S. theaters June 8. (The official Motion Picture Assn. of America explanation for its rating: “sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language,” though it’s not exactly clear how sci-fi violence differs from the non-sci-fi kind).

The news has been welcomed by fan sites, which don’t want a diluted version of the Scott epic. The director has the clout to push through with an R even for a movie of significant budget, something not all filmmakers have been able to pull off (See under: Guillermo del Toro and his stalled “At the Mountains of Madness").

But will “Prometheus’ ” rating -- which of course means that no one under age 17 can (officially) buy a ticket without an adult -- hurt the Noomi Rapace-Michael Fassbender film at the box office?

Most big summer movies studiously avoid an R rating; in fact, it’s rare these days for a summer release that isn't a comedy to end up with one. The more prominent examples, such as Harrison Ford’s “Air Force One” or the Wachowskis' sequel “The Matrix Reloaded," came out nearly a decade ago or longer, before summer action movies were the gargantuan business they are today.

Most other tent poles take an “Avengers” tack -- tossing in enough violence to satisfy the action-hungry but stopping short of scenes that would land an R rating and keep teens out -- as I and my colleagues John Horn and Nicole Sperling explore in this front-page Times piece about the emergence of the PG-13 rating.

The closest analogy to “Prometheus” may be “300,” which is the highest-grossing R-rated action movie of the last five years. The swords-and-sandals epic grossed more than $200 million domestically -- but  that was a March release that blossomed into something bigger.

The trailers and buzz for Scott's film have been extremely strong--which means it could be the best test yet for Hollywood's avoid-the-R summer rule.


PG-13: Some material may be appropriate for box-office success

Hero Complex: Riddles and Ridley Scott

Hero Complex: Michael Fassbender on ‘Prometheus’

Hero Complex: Ridley Scott paints corners of 'Alien' canvas

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Noomi Rapace in Ridley Scott's "Prometheus." Credit: 20th Century Fox.