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Why is there a lack of sex scenes steaming up the big screen?

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in "Titanic."

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Where has the love gone? More to the point, why are steamy, hot sex scenes just not showing up in movies anymore? With studios targeting a wider audience age range, violence, explosions and animation are now box office gold. 

"The really big shift occurred when opening weekend became such an imperative, and movies become written to try to get a large audience," said Vincent Bruzzese, CEO of the Worldwide Motion Picture Group, a research firm serving the film industry. "Now it's just a matter of writing things into the script that audiences are going to respond to on a marketing level, and that's what's changing in society."

The Internet has made it possible for people to access these scenes almost whenever they want, and there are entire websites dedicated to posting feature film sex scenes. With the growing popularity of adult-themed cable TV shows, like "Game of Thrones," scenes depicting sex just aren't as risqué or enticing as they used to be. 

Sex, apparently, doesn't sell as well as it once did in Hollywood. Instead, big budget action movies and state-of-the-art technical effects are what studios are pushing at the box office. Also what's more important is reaching a wider audience, including those under the age of 18. 

"When you have a large action/special effects movie, and you make it PG-13, you're really getting an audience of 8 to 99," said Bruzzese.  "When you make it R with a sex scene it's not just the younger audience that objects, sometimes it's the older audience that won't bring their kids."

In addition to the financial incentive, the lack of sex scenes in recent films can also be pinpointed to industry trends. Think back to the 1990s when films like "Basic Instinct," "Indecent Proposal," and others were big-time draws.

"There was a period of time where there was a trend of these sort of adult, erotic thrillers," said Bruzzese. "That really has shifted a lot to the small screen, and it's going to be really interesting to see what happens with 'Fifty Shades of Grey' when it comes out."

"Fifty Shades of Grey" will likely be full of  graphic sex scenes, but studios can band behind such a film because of its proven audience tied to the popular book series. Bruzzese says the market for films that allow a "hard R" are not going away. 

"For something like 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' that's something where you really don't want to tone that down," said Bruzzese. "You want to give people what they loved in the books."

On the business side, many A-list stars simply won't do sex scenes in films, or will demand a much higher price if such a scene is written into a script. As Brusseze explains, this is for good reason:

"Particularly now stars are sensitive to the fact that any sex scene that  they do, they've got to be prepared for the fact that it'll wind up on YouTube very quickly," he said. "No longer is it you just have to wait for the VHS tape and then wear it out with pause rewind."