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Should More R-Rated Movies Try and Release PG-13 Cuts?

Once Upon A Deadpool is going to be quite the test run for Hollywood, as the industry watches to see how a PG-13 cut of a film previously released as rated R will be well-received by a mass audience. If consumers turn out for the revamp in a big way, it stands to reason Hollywood may make a habit of releasing PG-13 cuts more often. That said, should this be a trend Hollywood pursues?

It’s a tough question to answer, especially where Once Upon A Deadpool is concerned. While the flick is largely Deadpool 2 edited for a younger audience, there’s added, never-before-seen footage of Fred Savage that folks will obviously want to see. For now, it seems the only way of doing that may be attending the film or buying the PG-13 cut when it arrives in digital and physical form.

While cool, this sets what I feel is a dangerous precedent for Hollywood. Obviously not everyone is going to be game to see a PG-13 cut of an R-rated feature, but in the age of post-credits scenes and additional content, dollars to donuts one studio would eventually get the idea to add additional unseen footage to a second PG-13 cut to bolster box office numbers. It’s not at all a bad idea, although could turn ethically sketchy.

For example, is it hard to believe a studio would decide to cut or shoot a scene specifically to hold it for an additional cut of the film that airs down the stretch? The blowback, if it were discovered, would be rough on whatever studio made the call and besmirch a franchise’s legacy.

That’s a cynical perspective, of course, but even in the scenario where a studio releases added footage to a PG-13 cut to appease fans could lead to some dicey situations. Imagine a world where Suicide Squad released a second theatrical cut with more Joker scenes following fan backlash. It may be well-received, but awaken a new era in which fans are even more encouraged and empowered to push for alternate cuts that fit their desires more than the final product.

Which poses the question: if a theater releases two different cuts of the same film in theaters, which is the definitive version? Is that up for the fans to decide, the director, or the studio? It’s a question slightly easier to answer in the scenario where a PG-13 cut is simply the same story with less sex and swearing, and maybe when viewed through the lens of another Hollywood tactic.

There have been plenty of “unrated” cuts of popular movies released on DVD, although very few of them have been heralded as the definitive version of the film. More often than not, the “unrated” cut feels somewhat superfluous in some situations, and more of a quick way for studios to market a release and turn a quick profit. There have been exceptions, like with the unrated version of Sex Drive, but by and large, most feel forced.

Having said all of that, there is an argument to be made in favor of PG-13 cuts. Studios could be more apt to pushing R-rated theatrical releases of superhero adventures and other genres provided they know there’s money to be made in re-cutting the film for a younger audience. A PG-13 cut could be the cash cow savior of rated R adventures, which don’t typically pull in as much money on average in comparison.

In fact, Newsday‘s report about the most recent list of top-ten box office hits of all time notes that all ten movies on the list are rated PG-13. Given that, it’s easy to understand why studios are more incentivized to make a PG-13 film and are interested in transforming rated R pictures for a PG-13 audience. While converting a previously released rated R romp to a PG-13 rating is fairly new territory, the money shows this is an avenue at least worth trying.

Of course, there’s the argument that asks why Hollywood would bother releasing two cuts, when PG-13 is, on average, a more profitable endeavor. In that light, releasing the PG-13 cut of a rated R film seems more or less of a test of if an audience will accept an original PG-13 tale in the future. It would be crazy to think no one is thinking about a PG-13 Deadpool adventure should Once Upon A Deadpool kill at the box office.

But what about the children? As someone who was absolutely not allowed to view a PG-13 feature before I was of age, my younger self is jumping up and down at the prospect he could be a part of the in-crowd who had the cool parents who let them watch whatever they want. Bottom line, a PG-13 cut may not be for everyone, but logic would dictate it may be just the ticket for someone else.

And in that light, if a PG-13 cut is the only way some young teenager can enjoy Deadpool 2 during the holiday season, then isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Hardly, but the thought that there’s a kid who will deeply appreciate the ability to see a movie they couldn’t see without otherwise getting grounded is somewhat heartwarming. Who am I to naysay over someone’s only cinematic avenue for Deadpool’s debauchery and mayhem?

Time will tell if PG-13 cuts of previously released rated R films are a viable revenue stream for Hollywood, and even if Once Upon A Deadpool crushes in theaters, there’s no guarantee other franchises will see the same success. As Heraclitus said so long ago, “Change is the only constant,” so perhaps the best thing to do is to see how it does and not be surprised if Hollywood has an even wilder idea of profiting off films next year.

Once Upon A Deadpool is presently in theaters and, of course, rated PG-13. For more on that project, be sure to read up on CinemaBlend’s chat with Fred Savage and how he was less than thrilled to be kidnapped by Deadpool for this project.

 

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