MPAA to Create Hard-R Rating?

R-Rating

This week at ShoWest in Las Vegas, MPAA chairman Dan Glickman will try to convince movie theater owners that a new Hard-R movie rating is needed.

A quick history according to Wikipedia: In the early years of the ratings system, X-rated movies such as Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange, and Last Tango in Paris, could win Oscar nominations and awards. But the rating, which was not trademarked by the MPAA (as were its other ratings), was self applied by the “adult entertainment” segment of the industry to the point where an X rating could be included in advertising gimmicks and came to be equated strictly with film pornography, which was never the intent behind the original rating. This concern led to a large number of newspapers and TV stations refusing to accept ads for X-rated movies, and some theaters’ landlords forbade exhibition of X-rated movies. In 1989 two highly acclaimed films, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer were released featuring very strong sexual and violent content. Neither one was able to get approved for an R rating so they were left as unrated with limited release. It was around this time that the MPAA decided to re-think the current rating system.

So the MPAA introduced the NC-17, which means No Children Under 17 Admitted. Some media outlets that refused ads for X-rated titles viewed ads for NC-17 rated films as equally unsuitable. While a number of movies have been released with the NC-17 rating, none of them has been a major box office hit. Movies studios would rather release a film unrated than under NC-17. Everything has basically come full circle.

Well the new idea being proposed is to create a new rating for the “Hard R” films (i.e. content so graphic that no one under the age of 17 should be allowed to see it at all in theaters).

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this issue.

If the creation of a Hard-R rating could successfully remove the dreaded NC-17/XXX stigma, and allow darker films to have bigger theatrical and video releases (newspaper ads, blockbuster…etc) I might be all for it. Many of the modern day horror films are presented multiple times to the MPAA before they are granted the “okay” R-Rating. While the cut content will end up on the inevitably unrated DVD release, it would be cool to see it on the big screen. Art shouldn’t have to be censored, but money talks.

But then again, would the movie studios want to release a film under a Hard R? That would prevent one of the target audience entrance into the film even with an adult. I have a feeling that the Hard R rating would also become the redheaded stepchild of the ratings line-up. So what’s the point?

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