24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Ratings

‘Killer Joe’ trailer: Will NC-17 boost the McConaughey pic?

May 8, 2012 |  1:52 pm

The new trailer for William Friedkin’s ‘Killer Joe,” which centers on a Dallas cop who is hired as a contract killer, features plenty of deadly serious scenes. Matthew McConaughey, as said cop, ominously flicks his lighter. Juno Temple, as the daughter of the intended victim, manages her best innocent look -- or is it her best manipulator look? Emile Hirsch gets beaten up early and often as the desperate man who hired said killer.

What isn't present in the trailer for the revenge thriller are signs of the infamous fried-chicken scene that landed  jaw-dropping reactions to the movie at the Toronto and South by Southwest film festivals  and an NC-17  from the Motion Picture Assn. (You can check out the trailer below.)

There is, however, an impossible-to-miss -- indeed, an eye-catching -- NC-17 at the top of the trailer. The rating is basically official now that the company’s upstart distributor, LD Entertainment, has decided not to cut the film ahead of its July 27 release.  (The decision contrasts with  the approach of the makers of another movie about a  killer, Jennifer Lynch’s “Chained,” which was also slapped with  an NC-17, but on which the filmmakers said they will cut an offending scene to land an R.)

Though the NC-17 may be the kiss of death for a broad commercial movie, it could be the best thing to happen to “Killer Joe.”  The movie has already generated pre-release press that would have been entirely nonexistent sans the ratings controversy. The rating could well be used as part of a banned-in-30-states type of marketing campaign (e.g., “the movie the MPAA doesn’t want you to see”).

Indeed, for a smaller release, the attention an NC-17 draws might be more valuable than the chance for some teens to see the movie with their parents. Think of it as a “Bully” maneuver, minus the Weinsteins.


PG-13: Some material may be appropriate for box-office success

MPAA upholds rating on NC-17 'Chained'

'Chained' director Lynch says she will cut the movie, but asks why she needs to

R rating for Prometheus: Will it hurt the film commercially?

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch in "Killer Joe." Credit: LD Entertainment

MPAA: Director to recut 'Chained,' but asks why she needs to

May 3, 2012 |  8:30 am

  "Chained," Jennifer Lynch's serial-killer movie starring Vincent D'Onofrio, has been given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA. The director asks why

On Tuesday, the filmmakers behind "Chained," a movie about a serial killer starring Vincent D’Onofrio, saw the Motion Picture Assn. of America deny their appeal of an NC-17 rating by a vote of 9 to 4.

On Wednesday, director Jennifer Lynch told 24 Frames she will recut the scene -- a graphic depiction of a woman having her throat slit open -- that landed the movie the MPAA's harshest rating. But she didn't sound like a filmmaker who understood, or was happy about, the group's decision.

"The one thing they [the appeals board] kept citing was context, that violence in a lot of other films doesn't feel as intense," she said. "I have a lot of compassion for what [the MPAA] does. And they were all very nice and warm in the room. But it doesn't seem fair to me. I feel like we are being punished because the film was done the way it was set out to be done, which was authentically."

The film's distributor, Anchor Bay Entertainment, said it has yet to decide whether it will also release an unrated version to theaters (presumably after the rated version has finished its run, per MPAA rules) or, possibly, release the unrated version on DVD. Lynch's movie centers on a serial-killing cab driver (D’Onofrio) who murders a boy's mother and then attempts to make the boy his protege; the boy must then decide whether he wants to follow in the killer's footsteps. The film has not yet been dated for release.

Kevin Carney, the Anchor Bay executive who argued the appeal alongside Lynch, said that he also was flummoxed by the MPAA's decision. He said he watched a number of movies to prepare for the appeal, including the torture-porn picture "Hostel 3," and didn't understand why that film had got an R rating while "Chained" was given the NC-17.

"There were horrific scenes [in 'Hostel 3'] that I can't get out of my head, but what the [MPAA] kept saying is that it was context, which seems arbitrary," Carney said. "Compare our movie to 'Sweeney Todd,' where 13 or 14 people get their throat slit. There's an equal amount of graphic-ness. It's just a different style."

The MPAA's context argument may elicit skepticism from some of the organization's observers, because the group has often said it strips away those concerns when evaluating a film. In the case of the recent controversy over the R rating for "Bully," for instance, filmmakers said they were told by the organization that it couldn't lower the rating for profane language simply on the basis of the profanities' context.

Lynch, the daughter of director David Lynch and a filmmaker whose movies often contain violent themes, has had her tangles with the MPAA before. She landed an NC-17 nearly 20 years ago for a decapitation scene in her debut picture, "Boxing Helena."

She said she thinks that many other blood-soaked movies get an R because they don't strive for the same intensity as her films -- a false distinction, she believes, that rewards a casual attitude toward violence.

"What you’re doing with the NC-17 is making a very potent statement that no kids should see this movie no matter what, even though kids can see [R-rated] movies where violence is sexy and funny," she said. "And I don't think it should be OK for kids to see violence just because it's sexy and funny."

She added, "As a parent, I don't make the distinction that it's OK for my daughter to see something if it's laughed at as opposed to something that's real and affecting."

The MPAA is sometimes criticized for going too lightly on violence, giving movies with comparable amounts of sex or language a harsher rating. Indeed, the reason offered by the group for the NC-17 on "Chained" was a phrase one doesn't see alongside that rating very often: "some explicit violence."

The group has been more willing to hand out the NC-17 of late. Another film, "Killer Joe," received an NC-17 in March, in that instance for "graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality."

Lynch said she knew that the stigma of the NC-17 was too great to risk a commercial release with that rating. But she hopes film-goers check out her uncut version of "Chained," if only for comparison's sake. "Horror fans will see it and be stunned at the NC-17," she said. "They've seen much worse."


More MPAA ratings being appealed in 2012

"The Hunger Games," "Bully" prompt ratings fight

MPAA upholds NC-17 rating on Jennifer Lynch's "Chained"

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Vincent D'Onofrio in "Chained." Credit: Anchor Bay

MPAA upholds NC-17 rating on Jennifer Lynch's 'Chained'

May 1, 2012 |  1:50 pm

Another movie has been branded with an NC-17 by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The filmmaker and distributor behind “Chained,” a thriller about a serial killer starring Vincent D’Onofrio, saw their appeal rejected by the group on Tuesday. The movie, which was directed by Jennifer Lynch (“Boxing Helena,” and daughter of David Lynch) and distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment, was given an NC-17 for “some explicit violence.”

It marks a rare instance of an NC-17 rating being given because of violence alone; the MPAA’s harshest tag is usually applied at least in part because of sexual content. The movie centers on a man (D'Onofrio) who kills a young boy's mother and then raises the boy as his murderous protege.

Lynch does have a history with the MPAA's toughest rating--she received an NC-17 in 1993 for "Boxing Helena," which depicted a man amputating a woman and keeping her in a box. Lynch and an executive from Anchor Bay argued on behalf of the filmmakers on Tuesday.

The rejected appeal for "Chained" marks the second time in the last six weeks that an appeals board for the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration has decided to stick with an NC-17 on an independent movie. In March, the group upheld raters’ decision to give the Matthew McConaughey hit-man picture ”Killer Joe” an NC-17 for “graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality."

The NC-17 has been a little-used tool by the MPAA since replacing the notorious X rating several decades ago. But either because filmmakers are pushing the envelope or because the MPAA has become more serious about using it, the NC-17 has surfaced more of late. In the last 18 months, the romantic drama “Blue Valentine” and sex-addict tale “Shame” were also each given an NC-17, with the former overturned on appeal.

Producers did not immediately reply to a request for comment or to say whether they will cut some of the violent scenes in response to the ruling to seek an R.


More MPAA ratings being appealed in 2012

The Hunger Games, Bully prompt ratings fight

Bully rating: Some, but not all, profanities cut for PG-13

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A shot from "Chained." Credit: Anchor Bay

'Bully' rating: Some, but not all, profanity cut to get PG-13

April 5, 2012 |  5:22 pm

"Bully" documentary

In a turn that allows both sides to claim victory, the Weinstein Co. announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Motion Picture Assn. of America to re-cut its unrated documentary “Bully” to land a PG-13 rating. The movie will now go out with that rating when it opens in about 115 new theaters next weekend.

The Times initially reported Friday that the distributor was planning a new version of the movie -- which focuses on the issue of teen bullying through the lens of five families -- so it could nab the lower rating.

The new cut of the Lee Hirsch film makes some concessions to the MPAA: It removes an obscenity that begins with the prefix “mother” in an early scene, along with two other quickly uttered F-words. Audio will be dropped out in all three instances.

But the new cut leaves intact a controversial scene on a school bus in which three F-words are used against a bullied child. The case now represents an exception to the MPAA’s rules; the group typically will impose an R rating on any film with more than two F-words.  

Stephen Bruno, head of marketing for the Weinstein Co., told 24 Frames that “I can say with no stutter that we would have remained unrated if we had to change that scene.”

In an interview, Hirsch said that he felt satisfied by the results. “This was about drawing the line but not being utterly unreasonable,” he said. “What’s absolutely relevant is the scene that we retained. There was one [obscenity in another scene] I didn’t want to give up. But I didn’t want to hold back all the groups that wanted to see the movie, Boy and Girl Scout groups and school groups, that wouldn’t be able to go if we stayed unrated.”

The new rating means that children of any age can see the documentary without an adult. An R rating requires adults to accompany children under the age of 17; a PG-13 simply offers guidance without imposing an age minimum.

The new rating also means that all theater chains — including Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest, which has a policy against playing unrated films — can show the movie.

Weinstein Co. went out with the movie unrated after losing an appeals battle with the MPAA to knock the film down from an R; in the process, the company garnered buckets of free publicity as a grass-roots and celebrity-studded campaign to overturn the initial R rating gained momentum.

“Bully” opened last weekend in five theaters in L.A. and New York City as an unrated film. It did solid business, averaging $23,000 per screen.

The unexpurgated version of the movie will remain in those theaters this weekend, with the PG-13 print replacing all versions when the movie widens April 13. The MPAA bylaws require a 90-day waiting period between different cuts of a film but make an exception for movies that go from limited to wide release, as “Bully” is doing.

One person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to talk about it publicly said that Christopher Dodd, the former senator (D-Conn.) who runs the MPAA, was instrumental in making an exception on the three F-words, winning out over other personalities at the organization. Hirsch said that there was "an openness [at the MPAA] that had a lot to do with him.”

Asked about the exception via a spokesman, Joan Graves, head of the MPAA division that oversees ratings, released a statement that read, in part:

“Per the standard rating process available to all filmmakers, The Weinstein Company decided to resubmit a new, edited version of 'Bully' to be rated, and the ratings board gave this new version of the film a PG-13 rating for intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language -- all involving kids.”

She continued, “In the case of 'Bully,' the ratings system has worked exactly as it is supposed to: Parents have been kept informed of the content of each version of the film, and they have been given the information they need to make movie-going decisions on behalf of their kids."

The issue has shined a light on the rules of the MPAA, which some critics have said are inconsistent and opaque, particularly when it comes to the issue of language. Hirsch said that he had no interest in turning this into a crusade — his main focus was attracting attention to the teen-bullying problem — but that he did believe this case could affect the practices of the MPAA.

“I think this has given fuel to a conversation that’s long overdue about the double standard when it comes to rating movies,” he said. “People say you can’t change the MPAA. But we’re not throwing something at a brick wall. It’s an organization made up of human beings, and like any other great institution it can be changed to better reflect what people want.”


'Bully' will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

Is 'Bully' a tipping point for the MPAA movie ratings system?

'Bully' got the rating it deserved

 -- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Alex Libby, one of the subjects of the documentary film "Bully," at the premiere March 26 in Los Angeles. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

Is ‘Bully’ a tipping point for the MPAA movie ratings system?

April 4, 2012 | 11:31 am

Harvey Weinstein’s PR blitzkrieg for "Bully" may turn out to be a pivotal chapter in the battle to overhaul the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings system
Harvey Weinstein may have cannily orchestrated a firestorm-sized ratings debate over "Bully" simply to boost ticket sales for a documentary that would otherwise be a tough sell. But Weinstein’s nonstop PR blitzkrieg for the film, now being shown in theaters as unrated, may end up accomplishing something far more lasting. In fact, it may turn out to be a pivotal chapter in the battle to overhaul the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings system, which slapped "Bully" with an R simply because the film contained a few scattered F-bombs.

There have been dozens of high-profile brawls over the arbitrary decisions of the ratings board in the past, all of which have left the system largely unchanged. But this time, even if Weinstein ends up undercutting his own case by tweaking the film so that he can release a version with a PG-13 rating, there are some cracks in the MPAA's wall of resistance against revamping its decades-old system.

PatrickgoldsteinEven though “Bully” was released this past weekend as unrated, a number of large theater chains that traditionally have steered clear of unrated films are now willing to play the Lee Hirsch-directed documentary, which focuses on the victims of school bullying. Regal, AMC and Carmike Cinemas -- the country’s No. 1, 2 and 4 theater chains by size -- are booking the film.

When the controversy erupted, John Fithian, head of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, pointedly warned Weinstein that if "Bully" went out unrated, it would be treated as an NC-17 film -- meaning that no one under age 17 would be allowed, even with a guardian. But Weinstein's relentless media campaign, which enlisted support from scores of celebrities, political figures and educator groups, has prompted some exhibitors to break ranks. Most are treating "Bully" as an R-rated film, allowing minors to see the movie if accompanied by a parent or guardian or, in some cases, armed with a parental permission slip.

Moreover, there are now mutterings of discontent from top executives at the major studios that actually fund the MPAA. Although it seems unlikely that any of them will publicly criticize the ratings board, they are privately expressing concern that the board's rulings could cause widespread public disenchantment with the ratings system. Such discontent, they fear, could lead to the rise of alternate ratings systems or metastasize into a partisan political issue.

Is it possible that we're actually at a tipping point with the ratings system? To get some perspective, I've been studying the history of how Hollywood has policed the content of its films. From the early 1930s until 1968, when then-MPAA chief Jack Valenti unveiled the current ratings system, studios' film content was tightly controlled by a rigid production code designed to keep the Legion of Decency and a variety of conservative-minded community groups from enforcing their own bans on movies.

Thanks to the code, America always looked like Ozzie and Harriet-ville: Married couples slept in separate beds, crime never paid and it required a prolonged siege on the part of producer David Selznick before Clark Gable was able to say "damn" in "Gone With the Wind," a word that was routinely cut out of scripts submitted to code administration chief Joe Breen. Breen was a cultural dictator -- if anything in your film offended him, it had to go, because no major theater would play a film without the production code seal.

Nonetheless, in the wake of World War II, with American society struggling with new issues such as racial inequality, feminism and anti-communist hysteria, someone emerged who was willing to test Breen's authority, much as Weinstein has done with the current ratings board. Big-city audiences had begun flocking to foreign films, especially neo-realistic ones made by Italian filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti. In 1949, an ex-publicist named Joe Burstyn acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Vittorio De Sica's “The Bicycle Thief,” which had won acclaim in Europe the year before.

The film broke records when it played at an art house in New York, but Burstyn knew that he would need a code seal to run "The Bicycle Thief" in other parts of the country. So Burstyn submitted the film to Breen for approval. It was rejected for two brief scenes, one in which a boy stops in front of a wall, apparently to relieve himself; the other where the thief's pursuers race through a bordello -- a production code no-no, even though the occupants were fully clothed and eating breakfast.

Breen wasn't going to budge -- he'd only recently cut a scene from a Hitchcock movie because it showed a commode in a jail cell. De Sica refused to cut a frame. So Burstyn, like Weinstein has done today, staged a publicity campaign, figuring that a film playing without a code seal would have the tantalizing air of forbidden fruit.

Soon the press was in a "Bully"-style uproar. The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the production code as a "violation of free thought and expression." The New York Times' chief critic, Bosley Crowther, ridiculed Breen's code administrators, saying they'd "put their minds in deep freeze." Life magazine smelled hypocrisy, because Breen had no problem with a "Bicycle Thief" shot showing a suggestive poster of Hollywood's favorite pin-up girl, Rita Hayworth, yet objected to a realistic depiction of contemporary life.

To make matters worse, five days before the picture had a code appeals hearing, it won the Oscar for best foreign film. Still, Breen refused to budge. Like Joan Graves, who heads today's ratings board, he argued that if he granted an exception for "The Bicycle Thief" simply because of its artistic merit, it would set a worrisome precedent.

However, even without a code seal, "The Bicycle Thief" played to large crowds in independent theaters, with Burstyn running ads featuring the boy in the film at the wall, captioned, "Please come and see me before they cut me out." In a move amazingly similar to today's "Bully" controversy, three of the five biggest studio-owned theater chains agreed to show the movie, the first time any film without a seal had played in major theaters since the code had been instituted.

The production code lasted for two more decades before it finally crumbled, unable to squelch public interest in such groundbreaking films as "The Moon Is Blue," "Lolita" and "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (For more details, read "The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship and the Production Code From the 1920s to the 1960s," perhaps the best book on the subject.) Much of the impetus for the code’s collapse came not just from changing social mores but from a string of filmmakers who, like Weinstein today, used the myopic rulings of the code enforcers as a way to drum up publicity for their movies.

In today's warp-speed media universe, change comes faster than ever. As the number of movies from the six studios that fund the MPAA continues to dwindle, more films are being independently produced and distributed, spawning a host of potential new Weinstein-style rebels.

Sixty years ago, it was "The Bicycle Thief" that started the ball rolling. Like "Bully," it was a humane, compassionate film that deserved to be seen by all. But today's ratings board isn't so different than the production code under Breen -- both entities believed that making any exception would cause the whole house of cards to collapse. Of course, the code collapsed anyway, crippled by a refusal to change with the times. Who says history isn't about to repeat itself?


"Bully" does well in limited debut

"Bully": Does going unrated solve anything?

"Bully" will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Joel McHale, Victoria Justice and Giuliana Rancic pose at the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary "Bully" on March 26. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images

‘Bully’ will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

March 30, 2012 |  3:03 pm

'Bully' may get a PG-13 version

As it rolls out “Bully” without a rating to five theaters this weekend, the Weinstein Co. is making plans to release a tweaked version of the documentary that will earn it a PG-13, said two people familiar with the company’s plans who were not authorized to speak about them publicly.

The new cut of the teen-bullying film, which would minimize in some manner the profanities featured in a controversial schoolbus scene, would hit theaters April 13, when the movie widens to 25 markets, and allow children of any age to see it without adult accompaniment. The film, which centers on five families affected by teen bullying, plays in limited release in Los Angeles and New York this weekend.

The Weinstein Co. denied that changes were being made now but allowed for the possibility in the coming weeks. “At this time, there are no plans to change the film for a PG-13,” Stephen Bruno, the company’s head of marketing, told 24 Frames on Friday. “We are in constant conversation with the MPAA and hope a compromise can be reached.” The MPAA has been steadfast that the existing cut wll not be given anything lower than an R.

How the tweaks would be made remains unclear. The scene that earned the film an R features one teen threatening another as the two sit side-by-side on the bus, with profanities interwoven throughout the scene. The Weinstein Co could cut the entire scene or try to trim around the obscenities. (Filmmakers cannot simply bleep obscenities for a lower rating; the MPAA typically treats even bleeped words as profanities.)

A new cut of “Bully” would cap the Weinstein Co’s long battle with the Motion Picture Assn. of America — and an extended ride in the press — over the R rating for the film. The MPAA initially handed down an R because of the profanities and then upheld the decision on appeal by one vote. The decision prompted howls from the Weinstein Co. that the group was not looking at the scene in context and kickstarted a grass-roots campaign that garnered nearly 500,000 petition signatures.

The ruling also allowed the Weinstein Co to embark on a publicity campaign that has shone a far brighter light than would normally land on an issue-oriented documentary.  The company ultimately decided to release the movie unrated, enabling the AMC theater chain to institute a policy that teens could see the movie unaccompanied if they turned up with adult permission. It also touched off another round of publicity.

Observers of the Weinstein Co. — as well as MPAA chief Christopher J. Dodd — have urged the studio to simply revise the scene if it believed that it was that important that teenagers see the film.

But Harvey Weinstein and filmmaker Lee Hirsch have been adamant that the scene remain in the film as is to show the full force of what bullied kids face. Weinstein told 24 Frames before a screening of "Bully" in Washington several weeks ago that he did not want to touch the cut.

“I did that on ‘The King’s Speech,’ and Colin and Tom killed me for it,” Weinstein said, referring to a new PG-13 cut for the 2011 Oscar winner, and to star Colin Firth and director Tom Hooper’s criticism of the move.

The MPAA generally does not allow differently rated films to be in theaters at the same time, requiring a “withdrawal period” of 90 days between cuts, according to its bylaws, so as not to create “public confusion.”

But it builds in an exception “in light of all the circumstances related to the motion picture.” Among the factors in making that exception, the group considers “the number of theaters in which the original version of the motion picture has been exhibited." That would allow "Bully," currently only in a limited-run release, to avoid the restriction.


A 'Bully' pulpit for Weinstein Co.

Battle over 'Bully' rating heats up in nation's capital

Regal Cinemas, country's largest chain, will play 'Bully

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from the documentary "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Carmike reverses course, will show ‘Bully’

March 29, 2012 | 11:45 am

The country’s fourth-largest theater chain has had a change of heart on "Bully."

After announcing it would not play the teen-oriented documentary because it had a policy against showing unrated films, Carmike Cinemas will indeed play the movie. It will treat the picture as an R-rated film and will not allow anyone under 17 to see it if not accompanied by an adult.

The move means that among the largest four theater chains, only Cinemark, the country’s third-largest exhibitor, will not show "Bully." Regal Cinemas said Wednesday it would show the film and treat it as an R; AMC will also show it, allowing minors who have written permission from an adult to see it on their own.

A person close to Carmike who was not authorized to talk about the matter publicly said that the company was moved to change its mind because of both the importance of the documentary about bullying and the decision by other chains to relax its policy against unrated movies in this case.

The Weinstein Co. decided to release the film without a rating after losing an appeal with the Motion Picture Assn. to overturn its R rating.

“Bully” opens in five theaters in Los Angeles and New York this weekend, including AMC outlets, in what will be a key test of how much the extensive ratings publicity has boosted its awareness among moviegoers. The documentary widens to two dozen markets on April 13, when it will screen at Carmike and Regal venues.


Regal Cinemas, country's largest chain, will play 'Bully'

Battle over 'Bully' rating heats up in nation's capital

A 'Bully' pulpit for Weinstein Co.

'The Hunger Games,' 'Bully' prompt ratings fight 

Weinstein Co to release Bully documentary without MPAA rating

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Regal Cinemas, country’s largest theater chain, will play 'Bully'

March 28, 2012 |  2:17 pm

"Bully" to play at Regal theaters

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.


'Bully:' Does going unrated solve anything?

Weinstein Co. to release Bully without rating

Battle over 'Bully' rating heats up in nation's capital


-- Steven Zeitchik



Photo: "Bully." Credit: Weinstein Co.

Weinstein Co. to release 'Bully' documentary without MPAA rating

March 26, 2012 |  2:27 pm

Weinstein bully chris dodd mpaa

This post has been corrected. Please see bottom for details.

After losing its battle to get the rating of the documentary "Bully" changed from an R to a PG-13, Harvey Weinstein said Monday his company will release the film unrated.

The move follows Weinstein's earlier vow to The Times that he would choose the unrated route so that teenagers could see the film, which centers on how teen bullying has affected a number of families throughout the country. "Bully" received an R rating from the Motion Picture Assn. of America because of profanities hurled by children at each other in the film.

An R rating  means no children younger than 17 in a theater without an adult. But some large theater chains have a practice, if not a policy, against showing unrated films, and "Bully" may not gain as wide a distribution footprint as it otherwise might have.

For his part, AMC theaters executive Gerry Lopez has said he will stand by the film, suggesting the chain will play it nationally even if it is unrated. Indeed, the movie opens in limited release this weekend at the AMC Century City as well as at the ArcLight Hollywood and the Landmark in Los Angeles, and the Angelika and Lincoln Square in New York.

The film is scheduled to widen its release to about two dozen markets on April 13; those theaters haven't  been disclosed yet. The MPAA and the National Assn. of Theatre Owners did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

The Weinstein Co. appealed the R rating but lost by one vote. A petition to change the rating to PG-13 was signed by more than 400,000 people, including celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Justin Bieber, but the MPAA declined to budge. As it is not a member of the MPAA, the Weinstein Co. has the option to release a film without a rating. (The MPAA is a trade group made up of the six large Hollywood studios.)

In a statement, Weinstein Co. President of Marketing Stephen Bruno suggested that he was not concerned about the distribution issue. “The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what’s right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves."

Weinstein previously told The Times that he felt this was the only way to go. "We have to do it that way," he said. "It's too important to risk the R."

[For the Record: An earlier version of this post said the movie would play the Lincoln Plaza theater in New York. It will play the Lincoln Square theater.]


Battle over 'Bully' rating heats up in nation's capital

A 'Bully' pulpit for Weinstein Co.

'The Hunger Games,' 'Bully' prompt ratings fight

-- Steven Zeitchik 

Photo: "Bully" director Lee Hirsh, left, Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Chris Dodd and Harvey Weinstein pose for a photo before a panel discussion after a screening of the documentary "Bully" at MPAA on March 15 in Washington. Credit: Kris Connor/Getty Images  


How would you change the MPAA's movie ratings? [Poll]

March 23, 2012 | 11:48 am

The ratings board of the Motion Picture Assn. of America has had better months.

Following its assigning of an R rating for the documentary "Bully," the MPAA has been attacked from all quarters.

Harvey Weinstein, the film's distributor, and "Bully" director Lee Hirsch claim the MPAA's rating is not only hypocritical and inconsistent (the more expletive-laden documentary "Gunner Palace" was rated PG-13) but also keeps the film from its intended audience of middle school kids. (Their appeal of the R rating was defeated by a single vote.)

Katy Butler, a Michigan high school student, started an online petition aimed at overturning the R rating and has collected more than 400,000 signatures. A number of celebrities, including Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep, and members of Congress have joined the chorus asking that "Bully's" rating be revised to PG-13.

The Parents Television Council, which supports the MPAA's rating for "Bully," says movies such as the dystopian drama "The Hunger Games," in which a number of teenagers kill each other, should be rated R, not PG-13.

What do you think?

Take our poll, and give as many as three answers.



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With Ellen DeGeneres and Drew Brees, ‘Bully’ battle goes celeb

— John Horn

Photo: A scene from "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


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