By Marilyn Barnewall

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According to film data, the top twenty money-making films of all time are family films. Not one is rated “X.” Of the top 50, only five have an “R” rating. The rest are “G” or “PG.”

Why do you suppose so much sex and violence with “R” and “X” ratings comes out of Hollywood? The numbers say it’s a stupid business decision. but Hollywood types are not known for their brilliance. They are known for their ability to put aside self-image and become someone else in front of a camera.

I have a great deal of respect for real actors. People who trod the boards of the live stage have to be smart and they have to be talented.
No one shouts “Cut!” in their business. They deal with live audiences.
They have to get it right the first time.

Why does Hollywood put out so many non-family movies? Since 2000, our friends on the left coast have produced five times more R-rated than family films. It just doesn’t make sense.

A friend and I were talking about this the other day. He had just watched The Great Race and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I had just watched North by Northwest. one of my all-time favorite films. We discussed why there were so few quality films being made today.

It is true there is a Hollywood culture. or, lack thereof. The children and grandchildren of Hollywood’s elite of the 50s and 60s are now writing, producing, directing and acting. They appear to have a mindset that sex and violence sells, even though the numbers say otherwise.

But is it really the writers and actors and producers and directors who determine the content of today’s trash movies? I think not.
As is good advice in determining responsibility in almost any circumstance, the words “follow the money” have application here.

My guess is that if you look at a list of the people who invest in movies, you would find your answer. Evidently, people with money to invest find sex and violence appealing. something into which they willingly risk their dollars. If I knew someone who invests in today’s movies, I think I’d watch my kids (of both sexes) very closely when the kids were exposed to such investors. Something is wrong when someone will risk investment dollars in trash that brings in less money than films representing family values. Where is the common sense in that?

Average American kids between ages two and 18 spend more than five hours a day watching electronic media. That doesn’t say much for modern-day parenting, but it is a fact. Finally, it appears, someone has come along and intends to broaden the playing field.

Philip E. Anschutz is a Denver legend. This guy is a really interesting person. involved in petroleum, hockey, soccer, and he is an executive member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is an emeritus trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an honorary trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, and an advisory member of the National Board of the Smithsonian Institution.

Hays, Kansas, native Anschutz is involved in railroads, sports centers, telephone companies and a lot of other things. He owns the San Francisco Examiner. He is a conservative Episcopalian who has a reputation for starting what he finishes even when the going gets tough.

Though one major magazine referred to him as “the most greedy executive in America” and though he had to pay a $4 million (plus) fine for some fancy footwork involving his Qwest stock and Smith Barney, I am glad Anschutz has turned his attention to family entertainment. Maybe he saw the numbers, too, and, like any intelligent entrepreneur, is stepping up to fill a market need.

Anschutz made some enlightening comments in a speech to Hillsdale College’s Leadership Seminar in Naples, Florida, reprinted in that school’s monthly newsletter, Imprimis. Hillsdale College is located in Michigan. It is a Christian school, one of the few in America that takes no money from the federal government and, thus, controls its own curriculum.

Anschutz and his wife have a number of grandchildren growing up in the current culture. He says “.four or five years ago I decided to stop cursing the darkness – I had been complaining about movies and their content for years – and instead to do something about it by getting into the film business.” His company makes “G” and “PG” movies with an occasional “very soft PG-13.”

In one of his company’s projects, for example, he will utilize Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. The books were written 60 or 70 years ago and have sold worldwide in about 80 languages. Over 120 million copies of the seven volume Narnia Chronicles have been sold. Anschutz has acquired the rights to use the books to make films.

He discovered a mindset in Hollywood. Actors, directors, producers all believe the best way to be successful is to be on the cutting edge. Push the envelope. Another objective is to get a lot of attention.
Sex and violence certainly achieve that end. The attention does not necessarily bring people to movie theaters, but it makes actors and actresses famous household names. It gets nominations at the Academy Awards.

Anschutz also says that “.sex, language, violence and bad taste always seem to find a market.” Movie makers and their actors believe that “.you have to grow up in the film business in order to understand it and have the right creative instincts for it.”

According to the data that comes from focus group sessions Anschutz has used to research the market, people want movies that entertain.
movies that are fun (the way movies used to be).

When you think about the 2,146 films released since 2000 with “R” ratings and the 137 films rated “G” and the 252 films rated “PG,” it makes you wonder what these people think they are doing.

I repeat my opening. Of the top twenty moneymaking films of all times, not one is “R” rated. Of the top 50, only 5 are rated “R.”

Hollywood is obviously not motivated by profits. If it were, we would all be able to take our kids or grandkids and find a majority of theaters with family films showing.

I thought investors were smarter than that!


Marilyn Barnewall, in 1978, was the first female to be named vice president in charge of a major loan and deposit portfolio at Denver’s largest bank. She started the nation’s first private bank, resigned to start her own firm and consulted for banks of all sizes in America and other countries. In June 1992, Forbes dubbed Barnewall “the dean of American private banking.” Author of several banking texts, she has written extensively for the American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, and was U.S. consulting editor for Private Banker International (Lafferty Publications, London/Dublin). Article originally appeared in the Grand Junction Free Press. Marilyn can be reached at [email protected].

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