UPDATE, 5:33 PM: The MPAA has issued this response from Joan Graves, chair of the association’s Classification and Rating Administration, which doles out movie ratings. Here it is:
“Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children. The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that Bully can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions.
The MPAA also has the responsibility, however, to acknowledge and represent the strong feedback from parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies, including language.
The rating and rating descriptor of ‘some language,’ indicate to parents that this movie contains certain language. With that, some parents may choose to take their kids to this movie and others may not, but it is their choice and not ours to make for them. The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it. Once advised, many parents may take their kids to see an R-rated film. School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.”
Privately, an MPAA insider told Deadline’s Nikki Finke that Harvey Weinstein is threatening a “leave of absence” from the MPAA ratings system for “Pure publicity. He is not a member so he can’t take a leave. He might choose not to have his films rated, which is his right. It is up to theaters if they want to show unrated films. Some do. Others don’t.”
PREVIOUS, BREAKING… Harvey Weinstein today says his company is considering “a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future”. It’s not a member of the movie studio lobbying and ratings group. But this follows the association upholding its R-rating on the indie distributor’s documentary Bully. The ruling puts a dent in Harvey Weinstein’s plan for the studio and filmmakers to show the film as a teaching tool in middle schools and high schools (a screening of the film is planned for tomorrow at LA’s Fairfax High). The ratings board originally gave the documentary about school bullying the rating based on language, and Weinstein personally attended the appeals hearing today; the board requires a two-thirds vote, and Weinstein says the Lee Hirsch-directed film fell one vote short of becoming PG-13.
It’s unclear how Weinstein Co would show its films without an MPAA rating; although not required, an unrated film rarely is screened in theaters per a longstanding though nonbinding agreement between exhibitors and the MPAA. The current ratings system has been in place since 1968.
Here’s Weinstein’s statement:
As of today, The Weinstein Company is considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future. We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far.
I have been through many of these appeals, but this one vote loss is a huge blow to me personally. Alex Libby gave an impassioned plea and eloquently defended the need for kids to be able to see this movie on their own, not with their parents, because that is the only way to truly make a change.
With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind. The Cincinnati school district signed on to bus 40,000 of their students to the movie – but because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans.
I personally am going to ask celebrities and personalities worldwide, from Lady Gaga (who has a foundation of her own) to the Duchess of Cambridge (who was a victim of bullying and donated wedding proceeds) to First Lady Michelle Obama (whose foundation has reached out to us as well), to take a stand with me in eradicating bullying and getting the youth into see this movie without restriction.