One way for The Weinstein Company to get around that pesky R-rating the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board slapped on "Bully"? Release the new film without any rating.
"Bully" will arrive in theaters on Friday with the unusual moniker of "unrated." That means the theater owners themselves will have the choice of screening the film or not.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the R rating is there because it's real," director Lee Hirsch said in a statement. "It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we're grateful for the support we've received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it's up to the theaters to let them in."
That might be difficult, at least if you believe Nation Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian.
"[I] 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," Fithian said in a statement back in February. "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."
"Bully" earned its R-rating because of a small incident of coarse language that was deemed inappropriate for viewers under the age of 17. (The MPAA automatically gives films an R-rating if they contain more than two F-words.) The decision to give "Bully" an R-rating, thus preventing kids from seeing a documentary about the epidemic of teen bullying in America, became a cause celebre for everyone from Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep to members of Congress. Seventeen-year-old Katy Butler also started a campaign to get the R-rating lowered to PG-13, getting more than 476,000 signatures from her online petition.
"The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what's right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves. We're working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country," Stephen Bruno, TWC President of Marketing, said in a statement.
"Bully" is out in theaters on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.