‘Harry Potter’ returns to PG territory

How will rating affect Warner film?

After two recent PG-13 outings, the latest “Harry Potter” film is back to PG territory — so is that good news for Warner Bros.?

Success is virtually guaranteed for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which bows day and date globally July 15; the only question is how much success. And despite conventional wisdom that PG is a more family-friendly rating, the last PG film — 2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the third in the series — was the lowest grossing of the five domestically with $249 million.

B.O. numbers climbed for the fourth and fifth editions, which were rated PG-13: The 2005 “Goblet of Fire” scored $290 million, and the 2007 “Order of the Phoenix” tallied $292 million domestically.

There’s little question that some parents would feel more comfortable OK’ing a trip to see a film rated PG rather than PG-13.

But by this point, “Harry Potter” is a known commodity. Obviously, parents feel safe entrusting their kids to Hogwarts films, and the PG-13 has a bonus of indicating that a film is cool and slightly more grown-up. Sometimes, a studio prefers a PG-13 rating because it will draw teenagers. A PG rating can be viewed by teens as too juvenile.

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The MPAA and NATO ratings board gave PG ratings to the first three “Potter” pics, including the original, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the highest grossing of the six films at the domestic B.O. at $317 million.

The second in the series, the 2002 “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” grossed $261 million.

Warner Bros. knew going in that the “Harry Potter” franchise wouldn’t remain a family property as the characters morphed from kids into teenagers and the storyline grew more complex.

Neither the studio nor the filmmakers went into the ratings process with the intention of securing a PG rating for “Half-Blood Prince,” insiders said. Rather, the ratings board determined that nothing depicted on the screen warranted the more restrictive PG-13 designation.

“Half-Blood Prince” is no lighter in tone than the previous two films, according to early reviews.

From a box office perspective, PG titles fall squarely in the family category, one of the most lucrative for any moviehouse.

Both “Goblet of Fire” and “Order of the Phoenix” were rated PG-13 for “sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images,” according to descriptors provided by the ratings board.

“Half-Blood Prince” is rated PG for “scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.”

While a PG rating has become synonymous with a family film, that wasn’t the original intent. A PG rating was a signal to parents that there may be some material not suitable for a child under 10. A PG film may contain some mild language, crude humor, thematic elements, sexual themes and some scary moments. No drug content is permitted.

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