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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)

Weinstein's new marketing strategy does a great disservice to the film. Obviously, its more about bucks than art. Its a terrific movie as is. I remember Weinsteins nauseating campaign for Chocolat - it made me regret having seen the movie at all.

The real villain here is the MPAA, which absolutely refuses to consider context when rating a picture. Given that most children hear (and use) far worse words every day, and spend countless hours watching violent movies with PG-13 ratings, an R rating is simply unfathomable for a movie as uplifting as this one. I think Harvey should appeal the film yet again and shame the Appeals Board into overturning the R.

I think it's a great idea. Lets in the people who may have been worried about the rating. Obviously people that don't care about the rating are not those they are trying to reach.

If the only change they are going to make to this excellent film is to take out the "F-word", then I see no problem. I didn't feel that seeing the king swearing added anything substantial to understanding him. If it brings in more young people to see this, then I'm for it! BTW, for those of us not as familiar with the movie business as the author of this (excellent) article, "may be recut for lower rating" is confusing; "lower rating" sounds like a bad thing.

Hehe, It's funny because it's PG already in Ontario, Canada

I for one would be totally for a lower rating. I am not a fan of course language...though I am guessing it isn't as excessive as most R rated films. Either way, cutting out the language to widen the audience is a good move. I also don't think removing a couple of F-bombs is damaging the artistry of a film of this kind.


This is Harvey at his duplicitous best! One minute he's the ardent defender of the indie filmmaker and his/her right to make a film his/her way and the next he's looking to re-edit an Oscar nominated front runner. The f word scene, which presumably earned the R, is one of the highlights of this beautifully scripted, directed and acted picture and adds a touch of humor and humanity to the piece.

We all know that this is a business and the object is to make money but re-cutting a fine film is too mercurial by half. Just do the clever marketing that you are so famous for sir and don't muck around with the movie. The backlash from Academy voters alone could be detrimental to your cause, no matter when you indend getting out the scissors.

Yeah right, that R rating was what kept the tween crowd away. American teenagers are just clamoring to see British historical dramas.

Maybe while they're at it, throw in some CGI action and post-convert to 3D.

Here's a crazy idea: Why not just bleep or blank the audio on the offensive words? -- in the case of the cursing in this film, that might actually fit in with the tone of the particular scene in question, as it would probably add to the humo(u)r. Movies have never done this, perhaps because they feel it would take the viewer out of the experience too much, but at least then there'd be no chopping involved.

One thing the article doesn't mention is that in the UK the filmmakers had to fight for a 12A and won. In the US, they chose not to appeal.

At first, I thought this story was a hoax created by the Social Network people and thought Harvey would have denied trying to tinker with the movie. But ugh, it's pretty sick what he's trying to do.

Doesn't he see this might hurt the movie winning best picture? How would it look for a film winning best picture only to then be re-cut after the awards season? Gives me shivers just thinking about it.

How American is that? A great movie like this gets an R for foul language while countless pieces of crap that are chock full of violence get a pg-13. Shows what some people think is better for kids.

No no no no no! The cursing scenes were not only a important parts of the movie, they were hilarious!

I am thirteen and was extremely interested in seeing this movie. It was not disappointing or boring at all. I did tell some friends about how great it was, though I am not sure if that gave them the interest to see it. I doubt many teenagers would want to really watch the movie but there was the huge jump in ticket sales after noms were announced or something.

All this talk of recutting is just not a smart idea. There's a big amount of income from the United States, and we don't need to include the UK box office in the arguement to offer a comparison. I can only hope that Tom Hooper does not concur with Weinstein. Also, the MPAA just plain sucks for not accepting the appeal.

Now I wonder what this will do to the Oscars Race. This is really riveting...


Gee, like any child in this country old enough to enjoy The King's Speech has never heard the F word on any other media source, or maybe even on the playground. More importantly, why not simply explain to said child that it was, at that time, unheard of for a royal personage to swear like that, which would better explain the meaning of why it was important for him to get out of the tidy and rigid comfort zone of his upbringing in order to get better.

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