Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012 by Angie Han
The battle between The Weinstein Co. and the MPAA over the rating for Lee Hirsch‘s Bully could finally be winding to a close, as sources claim that The Weinstein Co. is preparing a PG-13 cut of the anti-bullying doc after all. The unrated, unedited version of the film opened in five New York and Los Angeles-area theaters this past weekend to solid box office numbers, and is expected to roll out to 23 more markets on April 13 with the new cut. More details after the jump.
If you haven’t been following the controversy, here’s a quick recap. Back in February, the MPAA issued an R rating for the documentary, which deals with bullying in schools and among minors, for profanity. The Weinstein Co. appealed the decision but lost by a single vote, prompting Harvey Weinstein to threaten to break from the MPAA. The ruling also inspired an online petition with over 500,000 signatures demanding that the MPAA change the rating to PG-13. Meanwhile, the National Association of Theatre Owners advised its members to treat the film as NC-17 and allow no one under the age of 18 to see the film. The Weinstein Co. announced that it’d be releasing the film unedited, and AMC, Cinemark, and Regal each revealed its own decision on how it’d be dealing with the unrated cut.
Throughout the proceedings, The Weinstein Co. has denied that it plans to alter the movie — at least for the moment. “At this time, there are no plans to change the film for a PG-13,” said The Weinstein Co. marketing head Stephen Bruno on Friday. “We are in constant conversation with the MPAA and hope a compromise can be reached.” However, two sources “familiar with the company’s plans” have now informed the LA Times that The Weinstein Co. is in fact tweaking Bully to earn a PG-13.
Exactly how The Weinstein Co. plans to edit the film is unknown at this point. The R rating stems from one particular scene in which one teenager curses repeatedly while threatening another on a schoolbus. Because the MPAA treats even bleeped obscenities as profanity, The Weinstein Co. would likely have to drop the scene altogether or edit out the foul language.
Although the MPAA generally requires a “withdrawal period” of 90 days between two differently rated cuts of one film so as to avoid public confusion, the organization can make exceptions for special circumstances, factoring in considerations like the number of theaters that showed the original cut. Because Bully has only opened in five theaters to date, it would be able to get around the 90-day window and release the new version in new cities on April 13.
I doubt the PG-13 news comes as a huge surprise to anyone who’s been following the Bully saga, or for that matter The Weinstein Co. in general. While I’m sympathetic to the company’s outrage over the MPAA ruling — it seems incredibly silly to try and shield kids from actual language used by actual kids — now that the controversy’s been milked for all the publicity it’s worth, it makes more sense for The Weinstein Co. to make the little edits necessary to help the movie reach a wider audience. The company previously pulled a similar move with Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, which got an R-rated (for language) release before getting another, PG-13 cut months later.