While we refuse to believe Nielsen actually spent money to discover that R-ratings hinder comedies more than horror films, the results of its recent survey dovetail interestingly today with a companion piece about Tropic Thunder's potential for August domination. We've seen Tropic and can vouch for it living up to most of its hype, from Tom Cruise's sociopath studio boss to Robert Downey Jr.'s otherworldly, meta-Method blackface turn. But rating and timing are everything, as always, prompting The Hollywood Reporter to foretell a relatively floppy future:
Produced for an estimated $90 million, Tropic also has been supported by $30 million or more in advertising, a media campaign roughly comparable to other R-rated comedies. Meantime, promo appearances by its ensemble cast have included the three amigos showing up in person on American Idol, the MTV Movie Awards, by video at Comic-Con and at Cinema Expo. ... All the humor-laced promos, combined with sustained tubthumping by publicists, have lent the air of an event film that's out of proportion to any reasonable earnings prospects. Superbad, an R-rated comedy released last Aug. 17, opened to $33.1 million and fetched $121.5 million domestically. The Apatow-produced comedy bowed a week after action comedy Rush Hour 3 debuted with $49.1 million.
In this case, Tropic opens a week after Pineapple Express, another gleefully naughty R-rated comedy from Team Apatow. So we've got one stoner flick, one Hollywood satire, both essentially unpromotable by conventional prime-time standards. What could the difference between that and a steaming Ratner mean for Paramount/DreamWorks? Likely nothing on opening weekend, when Tropic could ride to $45 million on Cruise and Downey buzz. After that, though? Watch out for a gruesome bout of box-office cannibalism, interrupted every few minutes by innocent bystanders requesting two more tickets for The Dark Knight. The horror, indeed.