LAS VEGAS – A new study by The Nielsen Co. found that the PG-rated movies with the least profanity made the most money at the U.S. box office.
Sexuality or violence in those films had less to do with success than the language, the Nielsen PreView group said in a study being released Thursday.
"The reality is that profanity, within PG, is the big demarcation between box office winner and box office loser," research and marketing director Dan O'Toole said at ShoWest, a conference where studios unveil upcoming movie lineups.
"Parents are choosing PG films for their kids that have very, very low levels of profanity. We're talking one-third the level of the average PG film," he said.
The research firm cross-referenced box office data on 400 films in wide-release from the fall of 2005 to the fall of 2007 with their ratings for sex, violence and profanity given by Critics Inc.'s Kids-In-Mind.com Web site.
Controlling for marketing and production budgets of films, as well as depictions of violence and sex, movies that scored an average 0.8 on a 10-point profanity scale collected an average of $69 million. Those that averaged 2.8 for profanity averaged $38 million.
All PG movies averaged 2.3 on the profanity scale.
The Nielsen unit, which launched a fee-based research Web site for studios on Tuesday, also listed other early predictors of success.
The company found that movies that received approval from more than 70 percent of critics, regardless of their stature, earned far more at the box office.
In addition, Internet buzz about a horror film had little relation to its eventual box office draw. Other films, however, saw paydays increase in relation to Web chatter.