R ratings might help comedies

Survey suggests people are drawn to graphic humor

Results of a recent survey by online ticketer Fandango suggests that the MPAA should get a thank-you note from filmmakers whenever it slaps an R rating on a comedy.

Conventional wisdom holds that restricted ratings hurt film comedies less than other movies. But the Fandango poll results indicate that R ratings might actually help them.

August has been a regular launchpad for R-rated comedies in recent years. Sony opened "Superbad" strongly Aug. 17, 2007, with a first-frame haul of $33.1 million, and even five years ago "American Wedding" was able to ring up an impressive $33.4 million during the first weekend of summer's final month.

Fandango polled more than 1,000 visitors at its site about their attitudes toward restricted ratings on comedies and the oft-graphic humor contained in such films.

Among the findings:

-- Prospective patrons of Sony's just-opened "Pineapple Express" and the Aug. 20 opener "Tropic Thunder" from DreamWorks/Paramount were asked whether they were more or less interested in the films because of their restricted ratings, and 75% said "more," with 84% of male respondents saying so and 65% of females.

-- About 81% of those planning to see "Tropic" said they also would attend "Pineapple," which bowed Wednesday with sellouts of many 12:01 a.m. showtimes.

-- About 83% of respondents said they weren't turned off by gory or graphic humor.

-- A big 94% said they weren't offended by Robert Downey Jr.'s satirical jab at Hollywood method actors by donning blackface for his "Tropic" role.

"'Superbad's' success last year, along with this week's brisk Fandango ticket sales for 'Pineapple Express' and a surge of traffic to 'Tropic Thunder' (site) content, makes us believe that moviegoers look forward to these adult comedic escapes at this time of year," Fandango vp marketing Ted Hong said.

Fandango said 69% of its ticket sales since Monday were for "Pineapple." About 11% of its online sales were for tickets to the PG-13 sequel drama "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," from Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment.