As production starts today on Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, the next installment in the action franchise, producers at the Halcyon Co. say they aim to deliver a PG-13 movie to Warner Bros. for release on May 22, 2009, according to Variety.

The Terminator series is one of the highest-grossing R-rated franchises of all time, with the first three films having grossed more than $1.03 billion worldwide. But Halcyon producers thought it was time to broaden the upcoming fourth film's audience base, and they believe the PG-13 won't compromise the series' gritty vision.

"The ratings have changed," said Halcyon co-founder and co-CEO Victor Kubicek, a broker-turned-writer-producer. "The PG-13 has increased in intensity."

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The move follows last year's Die Hard film, Live Free or Die Hard, which went out with a PG-13 after three prior R-rated installments. That pic went on to gross $382.1 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing in the series.

A family-friendly rating opens many doors, including a "Terminator Salvation" licensing deal for action figures with Playmates Toys.

"Our merchandising program will be the largest to date for 'The Terminator,' " said Halcyon co-founder and co-CEO Derek Anderson, ex-owner of ad agency In the Mix, who adds that he had not discussed the possibility of an R-rating with Warners. "We won't force it. We are carrying on in the tradition of the mythology, with an exciting approach to the action. If we can make a compelling film to reach the widest audience, why wouldn't we do it?"

Halcyon has already launched Halcyon Games to create a "Terminator" game for release at the same time as the movie. "The first three games were all bad," Anderson said. "The core fans are screaming for something fresh; they won't be just playing the movie."

Set in post-apocalyptic 2029, an adult John Connor, played by Christian Bale, leads the war to save humanity from the killing machines.

Signing Bale, who also stars in the current Batman series, was a huge coup. Sam Worthington, who fronts franchise creator James Cameron's upcoming Avatar, also stars. The Terminator role is still under wraps; speculation centers on Josh Brolin.

Brian B.