Graphic sex and nudity don’t sell at the movies, study finds

from www.nydailynews.com – So, it turns out sex doesn’t sell after all.

At least not in the movies, according to one study.

CNN reports that an examination of more than 900 films released between 2001 and 2005 concluded that sex and nudity did not ensure a big box office return, or extra media attention.

The study goes by the ungainly title: “Sex Doesn’t Sell — nor Impress! Content, Box Office, Critics, and Awards in Mainstream Cinema.” Dean Keith Simonton, a co-author, asserts that the study drew from the largest body of work used for film research.

“Sex did not sell, whether in the domestic or international box office,” Simonton, who is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, told CNN. “Even among R movies, less graphic sex is better.”

The top-grossing films in the study included movies like “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 just minor to mild sex and/or nudity.

The study was inspired by something experienced a few years back by its co-author, Anemone Cerridwen, according to CNN. She had been taking acting classes and became increasingly uncomfortable with some of the sexualized content she was encountering. That led her to consider to pursuit data about the lucrative aspect of sex in movies.

“I assumed sex sold, and wanted to know by how much,” Cerridwen told CNN. “I braced myself for the worst, and got quite the surprise.”

Craig Detweiler, director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University, said the study’s findings reflect the culture’s post-sexual revolution sensibilities.

“Nothing is as shocking anymore,” he told CNN. “You can see it in Britney Spears’ kiss with Madonna and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance. Things that were a big controversy among some, the next generation kind of yawned at.”

Tom Jacobs, staff writer for the academic research periodical Miller-McCune, wrote about the study and said there has long been the belief that the many young males who make up movie audiences are enthralled by female nudity.

“These researchers really put that belief to the test and crunched the numbers,” Jacob said. “What I took from the study is that a hint of sex is perhaps more enticing than out-and-out nudity.”

The study’s authors hope their findings have some direct impact on moviemaking.

“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,” Carridwen told CNN. “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.”

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