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'King's Speech' may be recut for lower rating, gets new ad campaign following Oscar nominations

KingsspeechThe challenge now is making “The King’s Speech” into the lingua franca.

With a dozen Oscar nominations under its belt, the movie’s executive producer and distributor Harvey Weinstein is ready to unleash a new marketing strategy that aims to rope in more movie-going commoners who normally wouldn’t go near a historical drama about a British king.

The plans involve a potentially risky decision: re-editing the movie to excise coarse language and secure a lower rating that will open “The King’s Speech” to a broader audience. Weinstein, whose New York-based studio The Weinstein Co. released the film, said he is talking with director Tom Hooper about trimming the profanity that earned the film an R rating in order to attain a PG-13 or even PG.

He is eyeing the success of the movie in Great Britain, where a 12-and-over rating has helped it to top the box office chart for the last three weekends, beating such bigger-budget pictures as “Gulliver’s Travels” and “The Green Hornet.”

“The British numbers are huge because the rating lets families see the movie together,” said Weinstein. “Tom and I are trying to find a unique way to do this that keeps his vision of the movie.”

Hooper could not be reached for comment.

A recut version wouldn’t hit theaters until after the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 27. But The Weinstein Co. has aggressive plans for the $12.3-million production leading up to that date. Beginning this weekend, the distributor will expand the film to about 2,500 theaters in the U.S. and Canada from 1,680, making it accessible to nearly every moviegoer.

At the same time, Weinstein acknowledged, the audiences drawn by positive reviews and an all-star cast of past and present Oscar nominees such as Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter have been mostly tapped out. With nearly $60 million in domestic ticket sales, “The King’s Speech” is already the second-highest grossing specialty release of 2010 behind the breakout “Black Swan” and will soon outgross both “The Queen” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

But to match such independent blockbusters as “Brokeback Mountain” or “Slumdog Millionaire,” Weinstein Co. will have to attract those who usually turn out for mainstream movies.

The good news, said people who follow box office returns and polling, is that word-of-mouth is already helping the picture to reach a wider public.

“The most important thing is that the movie has morphed into an event that everyone is talking about,” said Kevin Goetz, president of movie research company Screen Engine. “The ads need to remind people of that.”

Weinstein Co. is aiming to keep the movie’s 12-member ensemble cast, including its leads and supporting performers such as Derek Jacobi and Claire Bloom, on the publicity circuit so that it remains on the minds of the public.

However, the studio is repositioning “The King’s Speech” with ads focused on the mainstream theme of friendship between Firth’s King George VI and his speech therapist, played by Rush. Previously, the distributor relied more on blurbs from positive reviews.

“The message more was about the critics, but now we’re trying to get across that this classic movie is just as cool as the other movies people are seeing,” said Weinstein.

In addition to touting its Oscar nominations, new ads for “The King’s Speech” carry the tagline, “Some things never go out of style: Friendship; Courage; Loyalty.” The previous tagline was “It takes leadership to confront a nation’s fear. It takes friendship to conquer your own.”

The independent film veteran, who has been known for savvy marketing ploys to boost his pictures since 1991’s “The Crying Game” when he ran Miramax Films, has another trick up his sleeve for “King’s Speech.”

In three weeks, Weinstein Co. is planning to expand the movie to more than 3,000 theaters –- unusually wide for a small, low-budget picture -– and launch an ad campaign around Valentine’s Day.

It’s far from obvious given that there’s no romantic tension in the movie. But Weinstein said a campaign timed for the Feb. 14th holiday will encourage people to “see it with the person who inspired you and changed your life.”

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech." Credit: Laurie Sparham / Weinstein Co.

Comments () | Archives (41)

Ridiculous, the re-cut notion. Utterly ridiculous.

1. Get creative and market the film in such a way as to make it clear this is a film that mature youngsters might get something out of. Encourage parents to get off their butts and be pro-active about determining whether or not their kid is mature enough for it. (Which is not only limited to exposure to swear words, of course, but also to sitting still and paying attention to a film that is paced more like a stage play.) There is NOTHING preventing a parent from taking their child to see an R-rated film, it is "Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian"; it is NOT the same as NC-17.

2. Uh, Harv... While I'm sure the 12A rating helps, would it not also be wise to factor in that the boffo box office in the UK is at least partially supplemented by the fact that it's about their royal family (and the father of their current monarch)...???

Yeah, all the 16-year olds I know are pretty upset they can't get in to see this movie.

F that, it's a lovely film that deserves better. I was shocked to learn of the rating.

A swear is meaningless without context and in this film, in fact in many films the swears are out of context. And frankly if a child learns a swear in such a way, who does it hurt?

Violence is universal though, and it always has context.

Films should just stop submiting to the MPAA

Re-editing the movie to get a lower rating? This is probably the stupidest idea imaginable. The scene with the f-bombs gets one of the biggest laughs in the film and Firth's delivery is brilliant. That scene is climactic and it registers strongly as a welcome release for both the character and the audience when it happens. You screw up the rhythm of that scene and you'll dilute the reaction.
What a totally moronic idea.

What a stupid idea! By re-editing the movie and adjusting the rating from R to PG, the incremental demographic that becomes accessible to the film consists of young children and teenagers (and specifically, those with parents that are not interested in the movie in the first place). I really doubt that this Justin Bieber/ Jersey Shore demographic (with parents that are interested in the same insidip pop-culture themes) is clamoring for access to a foreign film, in a period setting, about a speech impediment. Just think about it.

Mr. Weinstein, you cut this film to get a lower (safer) rating then the clowns at the MPAA win. It's up to parents to decide if their children should see this film, not the MPAA and not you.

That one scene is crucial to the film. DON'T TOUCH IT!

Why should they have to re-cut it for language? You can show the bloodiest, most violent crap imaginable to teenagers but God forbid they should hear language they use every day.

Re Julia's comments, the recutting and campaign plans don't ring positive bells for me either. Except the threat of not seeing it before it's sanitized, as if kids today are as sheltered as the kids in the king's day. What kid under 17 is going to search out this film without a parent taking him/her to it in its R state, anyway? Indeed, the ad campaign reads as if it's appealing to the king's generation.

As for the British reaction to the film, the Brits always flock to a film worthy of awards in the US especially if it has a British theme, or was made there, all out of proportion to its quality otherwise. Considering its pace, it's a harder sell here, especially if the attraction is a call for "loyalty and friendship". Sounds more like "Lassie".

Julia, I'm English and I couldn't care less that film is "about" the royal family (which it isn't - it's about a man with a speech impediment who just happens to be king), yet I've still seen it (and will probably end up seeing again before it comes out on DVD).

The swearing was totally in line with the King's affliction, often with humor. Children twelve or so have certainly heard the f word by then. Any kid younger than that would probably be bored by the film anyway. Why censor your own film that way? It's really a bad decision.

The swearing is integral to the plot.

Of course, there will be a kneejerk reaction to any plans of re-cutting the picture to get a PG-13... based on the false premise that R films are more "mature." There are a million artistic choices made during a film's production, some valid, some not so valid. Sometimes, that involves changing a script to get an R instead of a PG-13 so it will be taken "more seriously." Going the other direction is actually rather refreshing for a change.

This is the dumbest idea I've heard in quite some time. The foul language is isolated to one scene and is repeated to show how Bertie can curse without stuttering. He turns it into a coping mechanism. Since there is nothing sexually suggestive, the film shouldn't even be rated R.

I was never censored as a child and I don't believe in butchering works of art so that people too immature to handle a few expletives can watch it.

Cover your ears, cover your child's ears, or don't see it.

If they change the movie then is it no longer eligible for an Oscar and if they change it after the Oscars then how can they market it as an Oscar nominee (or winner for that matter). It will be a different movie. Now as to why they had all that vulgarity in there in the first place, who knows?

Goodness, don't cut it, that scene is an important part of the film. Those censors and "people" need to lighten up. It's just words. I thought, by now, we would not be so priggish and pedantic.

This is such a great Everyman play, with outstanding acting and editing, that eliminating even a small part would disrupt the story and would make that small part of the scene at the end kind of meaningless, too.

The keepers of the ratings need to give this a meaningful rating based on the whole story, not just words from one important scene.

I really had when a movie is recut for any reason other than to add footage to the new version. A couple of examples would be The Truman Show and Silverado. T.T.S. had the ending where he meets girl of his dreams cut from film and Silverado had the whole scene where Costner's character rides his horse off the cliff cut. May not mean much if you haven't seen the movies without the cut scenes, but sure changes things if you have. If it's just a matter of language, why not make a bleep version when filming. It really should be little or no problem to do so. After all, how many movies go without having scenes shot more than once. By filming both versions, you get one for the theatre audience and a version that can be viewed on TV without censoring objectionable dialog. Continuity.

For the life of me, I can't remember why this film should be rated 'R' in the first place.

That said, the movie is about words and communication. Changing the words will change the film too much.

I think this is a good idea. I, for one, would definitely see this film if it were edited for language -- that is the one thing that is keeping me from seeing it now. I am interested in the subject matter, I am a fan of many in this wonderful cast, but I do not see R rated films, especially when the R rating is because of gratuitous sex or violence or language. Is it really necessary to the plot or the character development to have that much swearing?
I hear enough foul language every day, and that I cannot avoid, so when I choose a film to see, I do not want to se a film that only has more pointless language.

Hmmm.....you know what this smells like? A bad idea.

I don't know what is more ridiculous: the fact that they are actually considering a re-cut of this glorious film or the fact that the MPAA is allowed to operate the way they do. How many films with a PG-13 rating are riddled with violent gun fights (oh, and maybe a torture scene here and there)? But throw in a few f-bombs and look out--your children might get corrupted!

I can't believe this was given a 'R' rating in the first place! I barely remember the "coarse language" from the film.

Does the ratings board really think young people don't already know those words? Let's protect our young people from real threats, like fear. It will be sad to have to cut scenes that show how a person can get a grip on personal fear and still behave publicly with strength and dignity.

... this is interesting. having seen "The King's Speech" (and I LOVED it, btw), i know that the "R" rating is solely for the language. i think the MPAA gives that rating when the f-word is said like 7 times, or something like that. so, trim down a few of those f-words and u got yourself a PG-13 rating... which means more potential viewers, MAYBE (its still a period piece). understandable. THAT BEING SAID, there is something undeniably repulsive about editing down a final cut that just got 12 Oscar Nominations.

Yeah, great idea there, guys. While we're at it, shall we edit the John Woo movies to take out the violence and concentrate more on the story? How about taking out the fights and gay references in Spartacus and focusing more on the historical facts? And for that matter, Apocalypse Now? Take out the mature themes and make it a buddy comedy.

Leave good enough alone. The King's Speech is an outstanding film in its own right and it shouldn't be cut in the least.

I disagree with the first comment, in practicality. Say what you want about preserving artistic vision, many parents will not take their children to watch R-rated films. Call them archaic or prudish, but they still won't do it. From a practical standpoint this will open the film up to a wider audience. Now, wehther or not chopping the film will result in the mainstream acceptance Weinstein hopes is yet to be seen.

Also, as a end note, I have skipped my fair share of movies about presidents and/or their parents. It's not like "W." was a mainstream blockbuster.

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