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April 3, 2004
Sex Being Marked Down for Clearance

In a rebuttal to the adage "sex sells,", the London Telegraph reports on a new study that demonstrates a lower box-office return on films that have explicit sexuality:

A new study has found that films containing explicit sex or nudity do much worse at the box office, earning nearly 40 per cent less on average than more wholesome movies. An analysis of 1,120 cinematic releases over the past four years has shown that films without sex scenes, such as Disney's Finding Nemo or Toy Story 2, earned an average of $41.1 million (22.3 million), while films with sex have grossed 38 per cent less with an average of $16.7 million.

In 2003, the final year of the study, the gap was even wider, with films without sex earning more than double those with explicit scenes.

Hollywood has long been concerned with a gradual decline in box-office sales, and this may provide an answer. After decades of cramming as many gratuitously naked females (only rarely males) into movies as they can, Hollywood producers have finally succeeded in making nudity boring. This may not be as big of a surprise as you might think, though. The study noted that films with positive, uplifting messages have increased during the study period.

Despite the study's findings that the international audience response mirrors that of American audiences -- results from box-office grosses around the world were analyzed -- not everyone is convinced. The Telegraph notes the comments of Will Self, the film critic from the London Evening Standard, who dismisses the study as a political exercise, and the results as a particularly American phenomenon, due to our excessively religious nature. Of course, it's hard to tell if he was being serious when he said this:

Mr Self added that Americans were more likely to enjoy films with a religious or moral content because Christian belief remained much more entrenched in the US. "We've certainly seen that with the box office success of The Passion in America, which is unlikely to be repeated here," he said. "We are a secular country, thank God." [emph mine]
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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 3, 2004 6:51 PM

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