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Study: Movies with Sex, Nudity Don't Sell

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By Jennifer Riley, Christian Post Reporter
January 28, 2010|2:48 pm

Hollywood would have people believe that sex and nudity sell at the box office. But a recent study shows statistically sex scenes do not translate to ticket sales.

Dean Keith Simonton, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and independent Vancouver-based researcher Anemone Cerridwen analyzed data for 914 films released between 2001 and 2005. Their conclusions on the effects of nudity and sex scenes on ticket sales and critical reviews were published in the latest issue of the journal of “Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts,” a publication of the American Psychological Association.

“All in all, it appears that sex may neither sell nor impress,” write the authors in their article, “Sex Doesn’t Sell – nor Impress! Content, Box Office, Critics, and Awards in Mainstream Cinema.”

“This null effect might suggest most cinematic sex is in fact gratuitous,” the researchers write. “At present, no filmmaker should introduce such content under the assumption that it guarantees a big box office, earns critical acclaim, or wins movie awards.”

Top-grossing films among those analyzed included “Shrek 2,” “Spider-Man,” “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” all of which contained at most only mild sex and/or nudity. The biggest box office hits of all time, which include “Gone with the Wind” and “Star Wars,” reaffirm the idea that sex does not sell.

The researchers noted that sex did not only sell poorly in the domestic box office, but also internationally.

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Cerridwen, who began researching the topic a decade ago as an actress who was uncomfortable with the sexual content in her acting class, said to CNN: "I do believe that there are a fair number of people in the film industry who want to make better films, and this study may give them some ammunition."

"I know that Hollywood has been trying to make more family-friendly films for a while (since the '90s) and it seems to be helping ticket sales, so my guess is that this research would complement that," she said.

Though the study found sex did not sell at the box office, it found that movies with violence did on average sell more tickets.

 

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