Here's a newsflash for Hollywood: Sex doesn't sell in mainstream movies any more.
Who says so, despite much evidence to the contrary? A couple of North American researchers, who claim sex and nudity have a negligible impact on box-office results, and too much hard-core action can hurt a film's performance.
Dean Keith Simonton from the University of California, Davis, and Vancouver-based researcher Anemone Cerridwen crunched the B.O. figures, critics' responses and Motion Picture of Association America ratings on nearly 1,000 films released between 2001 and 2005.
They concluded that, on average, films with a supposedly high risqué content made less money in cinemas and later on DVD – up to 31 per cent less.
“All in all, it appears that sex may neither sell nor impress. This null effect might suggest most cinematic sex is in fact gratuitous," the authors wrote in their study published in the American Psychological Association's November journal of Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
"It is manifest that anyone who argues that sex sells or impresses must be put on notice. 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. On the contrary, other forms of strong film content appear far more potent, either commercially or aesthetically."
The study showed violence tends to have a positive effect on US and world grosses, except, for some unexplained reason, in the UK. Another conclusion, which is blindingly obvious: Comedy and action are strong sellers.
There's a strong moralistic tone to their comments which, I'd suggest, raises questions about just how impartial and clinical their research was.
Cerridwen told The Toronto Star she regards sex scenes as “sexual harassment of talent….It also is often just plain sexist, holding up women (and leading men) as objects to be consumed rather than people."
She added, "I think it reflects and reinforces sexism in society, in general. Even if the performer genuinely doesn't mind having to do this stuff as a condition of employment, it creates a hostile environment for the rest of us: other women on camera, behind the camera, in acting classes, plus women, in general."
Diane Keaton had no such reservations when she stripped off in Something's Gotta Give – but I must admit the baring of flesh can be a turn-off, as when Philip Seymour Hoffman displayed his saggy butt in a bedroom scene with Marisa Tomei in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.
But it was flat-out funny when Jason Segel did the Full Monty in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.