The overwhelming majority of Hollywood’s biggest franchises are PG-13, with one or two R-rated exceptions. The reasons why are simple and obvious: excluding a huge portion of the target audience leads to a drastic downturn in box office returns.
The two highest-grossing multi-film properties in history that embraced R-ratings are The Conjuring and The Matrix, and neither even ranks in the 25 most lucrative brands of all-time. Movies like the Deadpool duology, Logan, Joker, James Cameron’s first two Terminators, The Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey and others, have experienced mixed critical and commercial fortunes.
We’re now hearing from sources — the same ones who told us Ben Affleck was returning as Batman in The Flash long before it was confirmed — that DCEU could be making a shift towards R-rated content. Looking at how Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad bombed hard, one must wonder why such a drastic shift is considered.
Of course, it could be as simple as the majority of HBO Max projects leaning into the freedoms that come with airing on a streaming service; also, it would help differentiate DCEU‘s small screen offerings from theatrical releases. Having gone zero-for-two in cinemas with R-rated titles, it is a bold, risky and even dangerous move to shift the focus away from PG-13.