The fight over Bully continues, with the National Association of Theatre Owners now making its own threats. News came out last week that the MPAA upheld its R-rating for The Weinstein Company’s Tribeca 2011 doc about school bullying and since then the Weinstein Co has considered releasing the doc unrated and even to boycott the MPAA altogether, a move could have implications for its future releases. If TWC indeed goes ahead with releasing the film unrated, NATO said today in a letter to Weinstein boss Harvey Weinstein that it will urge members to consider the Lee Hirsch-directed film an NC-17 movie. In the letter (see below), NATO president and CEO John Fithian said he would “have no choice but to encourage my theater owner members to treat unrated movies from The Weinstein Company in the same manner as they treat unrated movies from anyone else. In most cases, that means enforcement as though the movies were rated NC-17 — where no one under the age of 18 can be admitted even with accompanying parents or guardians.”
TWC said Tuesday in a statement its sole purpose for releasing the film is “educating children and highlighting how bullying has become a national crisis.” It added that Weinstein principals Harvey and his brother Bob were father to four children and see this as a “personal matter and one deserving its due respect from the MPAA and NATO.”
Meanwhile, a Michigan high school student began petition urging the MPAA to give Bully a PG-13, which would make it more accessible to middle school and high school students. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had 94,000 signatures.
Here’s the NATO letter to Harvey Weinstein:
The National Association of Theatre Owners partners with the MPAA in the rules and operations of the Classification and Ratings Administration. Exhibition representatives participated yesterday in the appeal of “Bully.” As you know, the appeals board voted to uphold the ratings board’s decision that the prevalence of harsh language in “Bully” warranted an “R” rating. In response, you released a statement criticizing the decision, and threatening to remove your company’s movies from the ratings process.
As the father of a nine-year-old child, I am personally grateful that TWC has addressed the important issue of bullying in such a powerful documentary. The filmmaker and especially the brave young people who participated in this project deserve our attention and respect. Nonetheless, I believe that your public response to the decision of the appeals board is unwise.
Surveys of America’s parents reflect their very strong concern with the use of harsh language in movies. The vast majority of parents surveyed have indicated that the type of language used in “Bully” should receive an automatic “R” rating. You ask us to ignore the preferences of America’s parents and our own ratings rules because of the merit of this movie. Yet were the MPAA and NATO to waive the ratings rules whenever we believed that a particular movie had merit, or was somehow more important than other movies, we would no longer be neutral parties applying consistent standards, but rather censors of content based on personal mores.
You recently released the award-winning movie “King’s Speech” and must know the language rules very well. You should not have been surprised at the rating for “Bully.”
I have nothing but tremendous respect for you and the work of TWC. Our industry is so much the better for your involvement. But if you decide to withdraw your support and participation in the rating system, and begin to release movies without ratings, I will have no choice but to encourage my theater owner members to treat unrated movies from The Weinstein Company in the same manner as they treat unrated movies from anyone else.
In most cases, that means enforcement as though the movies were rated NC-17 – where no one under the age of 18 can be admitted even with accompanying parents or guardians.
Thank you for your consideration of these thoughts. And the best of luck to you on Sunday.
President & CEO
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.