The entertainment industry is a business that, like any other, relies on profits to survive. Its leaders even have been fond of mouthing support for the free market, saying people should be free to watch what they want without government interference. And yet something other than a profit motive seems to be at work when it comes to the products they produce.

We've noted this before, as studies have shown the vast differences in typical profits between movies that are rated PG-13 or cleaner and those that are rated R or worse. The cleaner movies typically always earn higher profits, by a wide margin, and yet Hollywood produces far more movies that are rated R than anything else.

A new study by BYU students, reported recently in this newspaper, adds even more perspective to this odd phenomenon. The students looked at the content of 3,000 movies produced since 1995 and created a content index. Among other things, they found that the biggest difference between a PG-13 and R rating was profanity, not sexual content. They also found that the PG-13 movies were far more profitable than those rated R. They also found that the PG-13 movies with edgier content did better than other PG-13 movies.

Their conclusion was that audiences are looking for content that pushes boundaries without crossing them. However, it may also be true that people are concerned about exposing their children to inappropriate entertainment, and that they consider anything that falls within the PG-13 boundary to be mainstream and, therefore, OK.

That puts a spotlight on Hollywood's role as a cultural trend-setter.

Five years ago, the Dove Foundation studied the costs and profits of 2,982 movies produced over a 14-year period and reached similar conclusions. It found that G-rated movies such as "The Lion King" averaged $79 million in profits, while R-rated movies averaged only $6.9 million. And yet the number of R-rated films produced during that time was more than 12 times the number of G-rated films.

We're not inclined to believe in nefarious conspiracy theories, but the least that can be said here is that Hollywood is out of touch with its audience. Perhaps this has to do with the personal tastes of industry officials and producers, many of whom live lives far different from that of the average American.

We understand that filmmakers often are more concerned with their art than with profits, but it is curious that Hollywood producers would be so blind to an obvious profit motive that would sacrifice little in terms of art. By simply removing several unnecessary swear words (which hardly could be considered art), they could lower a film's rating and earn 25 to 35 percent more in profits. That could translate into tens of millions of dollars.

It also could translate into cleaner entertainment, which would mean a cleaner retelling of things one has seen on the screen and a gradual elevation of the culture in general. That's what the market wants, if anyone is listening.