Regal Cinemas, country’s largest theater chain, will play 'Bully'
The country’s largest theater chain will play the controversial documentary “Bully” — but will treat it as an R-rated film.
A spokesman for Regal Cinemas told 24 Frames that, unlike competitors Carmike and Cinemark, the company will play the documentary despite the fact that it is now being released without a rating after losing its appeal with the Motion Picture Assn.
But unlike AMC, Regal's biggest competitor and the country’s second-largest chain, Regal will not allow children under 17 to enter the theater by themselves under any circumstances. (AMC, which is playing the movie at its Century City and Manhattan locations this weekend, will admit minors with written permission from an adult.)
“Regal intends to play the film and respect the original R-rating decision of the MPAA,” said Regal’s Dick Westerling. “We will treat the film like it is rated R.
The film opens this weekend in limited release in Los Angeles and New York on a total of five screens, three of them art house theaters and the two AMC locations. It will play on Regal screens when it expands to 25 markets in two weeks.
Like the other chains, Regal’s decision reflects an attempt to strike a delicate balance. After the Harvey-Weinstein-distributed "Bully," a documentary about the dangers of teen bullying, saw its appeal for a PG-13 rejected, Weinstein said he would release the movie without a rating. He hoped the move would allow the theaters that did show it to let in teenagers without adults, which he said would encourage teens to see it.
Caught between a movie aimed at promoting a social good and the ruling of the MPAA, the four largest theater chains have adopted varying stances. Two of them won’t show it at all, and a third will now treat it like an R-rated film. Only AMC is relaxing its policy.
The National Assn. of Theatre Owners has advised members to treat the film as though it were rated R.
Even with the distribution issues, the ratings controversy has garnered a huge amount of attention for "Bully," with nearly 500,000 people signing a petition on behalf of a lower rating. If some of that interest translates into the box office, it could pay off in a big way for the film. The highest-grossing independent documentary last year, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” tallied just more than $5 million, and even a few million dollars is considered a win for most issue-oriented nonfiction films.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "Bully." Credit: Weinstein Co.