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‘Bully’ Triggers Trend As More Filmmakers Appeal MPAA Ratings

'Bully'
The Weinstein Co.

Harvey Weinstein grabbed headlines earlier this year when he appealed the MPAA’s decision to tag the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary ‘Bully’ with an R rating. Ever the masterful marketer, Weinstein used the appeal to generate press for his movie. But there’s a much larger story brewing behind that flashy, attention-demanding move.More and more filmmakers are appealing MPAA decisions, according to a new report in the L.A. Times, which points to “a significant increase” in the number of directors having to plead their case. In 2012, the MPAA already has heard eight appeals, the Times says, which is double the number of appeals heard in 2011, and far more than the seven total appeals heard in 2010.

Among the higher-profile films that have appealed their ratings so far this year: William Friedkin’s ‘Killer Joe,’ with Matthew McConaughey and Gina Gershon, which is trying to avoid an NC-17 rating; and the action-adventure ‘Sea Level,’ which hoped to enter theaters with a G rating.

What happened? The report suggests that studios are finding more courage to fight what they deem unfair ratings handed down by what some consider to be an antiquated system.

“I think studios are starting to push a little harder,” Ethan Noble, of the Motion Picture Consulting company, told the Times. “And while I think that this is the best system we can have, there does seem to be a disconnect between what the ratings board wants and what filmmakers think should be allowed.”

However, the Times report suggests that while the appeals are increasing, the MPAA is not backtracking on their initial rulings in most cases.

“All but one of the appeals for 2012 movies failed in their bid for a lower rating; the one successful appeal was for Lionsgate’s high-school romance ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ which was changed from an R to a PG-13,” the Times writes. “By contrast, nearly 50% of appeals were successful in 2010 and 2011.

In a statement, Classification and Rating Administration chief Joan Graves said: “As the numbers indicate, the frequency of appeals simply varies from year to year. The bottom line is that around 700 films are reviewed for ratings each year and rarely does the number of appeals even reach double digits.”

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