Teens being spared R-rated ads

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"Tomcats," a teen gross-out comedy, stumbled over its own baggy pants at the box office last weekend, and some say that may signal a trend.

The weekend's winner was the relatively innocuous PG-rated "Spy Kids," an espionage spoof that scooped up $26.5 million from parents and kids who piled into theaters to see it.

"Tomcats," according to the Monitor's review, is a "dud" of a movie, full of "sexist jokes" and other "nastiness." It pulled in a paltry $6.4 million. And "Say It Isn't So," another film aimed at teens that the Monitor rated a "dud" and "in the poorest of taste," opened March 23 to a tiny $2.9 million in sales.

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In 1998 "There's Something About Mary" set new standards for screen-comedy tastelessness (although many viewers did see genuine creativity amid the dross) and was rewarded with box-office gold. Ever since, imitations have been rushed onto screens.

What's gone wrong now? The entertainment industry magazine Variety suggests this week it's a case of the movie studios beginning to live up to their promise, under pressure from politicians and advocacy groups, to not market R-rated movies to teens under 17. Both "Tomcats" and "Say It Isn't So" are rated "R."

"It's tough to have teenage movies when you preclude teenagers from coming except with their parents," conceded one industry executive.

The media website Inside.com reported earlier that MTV was losing revenue because of fewer movie ads. The cable channel is highly viewed by 12-to-17-year-olds and thus is now showing fewer ads for R-rated fare.

Write to the Arts & Leisure section at entertainment@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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