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Where did all the G-rated blockbusters go?

Kai Ryssdal, Livi Burdette, and Sean McHenry Sep 13, 2023
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Even this year's sequel to the "Trolls" movie didn't pass the G-rated test. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images

Where did all the G-rated blockbusters go?

Kai Ryssdal, Livi Burdette, and Sean McHenry Sep 13, 2023
Heard on:
Even this year's sequel to the "Trolls" movie didn't pass the G-rated test. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images
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If you’ve noticed that “family” movies have gotten a little more “adult” in recent years, you’re not wrong. Family-oriented films are expected to rake in $4.9 billion this year, but there have been no full-length G-rated movies released in theaters so far, and we likely won’t see one through the end of 2023, according to Alexis Soloski, a culture reporter for the New York Times. 

For those of us mourning the G-rated classics of the 90s and early aughts, it appears that PG has become the new G-rated for most family-oriented releases. 

“It’s possible to have a lot of sophistication and still achieve a G rating,” Soloski said. “But I learned that there’s a feeling that audiences wouldn’t come if it was rated G, that they would think it was simplistic.” 

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal talked to Alexis Soloski about what we lose when we lose G-rated films. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation. 

Kai Ryssdal: I thought it was very curious to read that there are basically no G-rated movies in wide release right now. And I guess the question is: how come?

Alexis Soloski: Isn’t that strange? I was surprised too. I would have thought that the “Paw Patrol” sequel would at least have rated a G, and the same with “Trolls.” But apparently, even our cartoon characters are becoming increasingly adult. It is a very strange phenomenon.

Ryssdal: The “Trolls” movie is a little psychedelic-looking, I gotta tell you, I kind of get that. But what is going on here? Because, I mean, when my kids were little, there were G movies all over the place. And now not so much. 

Soloski: It was the same when I was little, too. I talked to a lot of industry experts, and they cite a lot of reasons for this. One movie that a lot of people point to was the “Shrek” movie, which came out a little more than 20 years ago. That movie had a PG rating, and there were a lot of jokes in there that were not aimed at children, that were just a little sophisticated and a little off-color. And that movie did very well. It was thought that it was good to have a movie that had one narrative for children, but jokes that adults could also appreciate. And the studios really took some lessons from that and thought, “Okay, let’s make some more sophisticated content.”

Ryssdal: Well, that’s so interesting, right? Because they had to do that because parents had to schlep their kids and go with their kids to the actual movie theater, and now, not so much. And you can plop your kids in front of the TV and stream almost anything within reason, and so they don’t really need to be geared toward adults anymore.

Soloski: They don’t but I have never seen a G rating as something that would necessarily turn an adult away, as long as a movie was really good. When I think of the wonderful movies of my youth and my adolescence, some of which were G, some of which were PG, there was plenty for adults there. It’s possible to have a lot of sophistication and still achieve a G rating, but I learned that there’s a feeling that people would be afraid that audiences wouldn’t come if it was rated G, that they would think it was simplistic. There’s a story that “Star Wars” was originally given a G rating and they were horrified. They thought no one would come and see it. So they put in a little bit of blood to get that PG. 

Ryssdal: Man, I hadn’t heard that before. I’m obliged here to ask about Pixar, which in my memory has all these kids movies, right? “Monsters, Inc.,” and “The Incredibles” — but, “The Incredibles” was rated PG, too. So PG is now the new G — is that the deal?

Soloski: It does seem to be the new G. “Toy Story,” that’s a G, “A Bug’s Life,” that’s a G, “Monsters, Inc.,” that’s a G, “Finding Nemo” — with “The Incredibles,” you move up to PG, but Pixar is still consistently delivering some G-rated movies.

Ryssdal: What do we lose, if “family” — in air quotes — movies sort of aren’t really a thing anymore?

Soloski: I think that’s such a great question. A lot of people will tell you that we don’t lose very much. A lot of people will say that movie tickets are expensive, which they are. A lot of people will say that you can now find excellent movies on streaming, and I agree with that too. But I think that what we miss is a communal experience. I don’t know about you. But when my kids are watching a movie, I’m just as likely to be on my phone. I’m doing the dishes, I’m making lists, I’m doing all the things I need to do. In a movie theater, we are absolutely watching the same thing together, because I can’t be doing the dishes, and I shouldn’t be on my phone. And so, when we watch a family movie in the theater, we build the habit of moviegoing and if we value moviegoing and if we value movies, I do feel that we have to give families movies worth going to. And sometimes the seventh “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” may not be that movie. 

Ryssdal: Maybe not. 

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