Clare Sidoti Staff Writer
It has been just over four months since the December shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that shocked both the US and the world as a whole. However, the events from that day has sparked action from a number of different corners in the hopes of preventing a similar tragedy.
One of these areas is the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) who, in the days following the shooting, made a commitment to Vice President Biden to review the movie-ratings system in order to better inform parents. These two trade groups together administer the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). This system has been in place since 1968 and is aimed at giving parents the information they need to decide whether a film is appropriate for their family. Earlier this year, NATO President John Fithian and MPAA chairman and CEO, Christopher Dodd, met with a special task force on gun violence that is headed up by Biden.
Speaking this week at CinemaCon, the duo announced the launch of their new “Check the Box” campaign”. This campaign aims to highlight why a movie has received the rating that it has. Trailers in cinemas will now also have a tag attached explaining that the trailer is approved to play for an audience similar to the feature they came to see. As part of the campaign a new Public Service Announcement was created which you can view here, as well as a new poster that will be displayed in cinemas nationwide. Fithian believes that the new system make the whole process more transparent and “user-friendly”.
Fithian has also used this opportunity to call on Hollywood to make fewer R-rated films. At a press conference at the Las Vegas function following his announcement with Dodd, he said “It’s cool to be Quentin Tarantino and it’s fun to make movies that have all those diverse elements, but there’s a bit of a disconnect between exhibitors and studios as to what works”. He also pointed to the box office success of family-friendly films “The total gross from PG-13 rated movies almost doubled the return from R-rated movies, even though there were almost 50% more R-rated films released… And the mighty PG movies nearly grossed what the R-rated movies generated, with less than one-third the number of titles”.
In response to a question on whether they think studios make too many violent, R-rated films, Dodd highlighted the fact that less than half of all studio films have an R rating and stated “there’s a real desire to provide choice, and you don’t want to change that”.
Both groups take the ratings enforcement seriously and Fithian spoke about how cinemas have been working harder to ensure this occurs. “A few weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission released a report on its most recent undercover shopper survey with movie theaters, scoring their highest since these surveys began over a decade ago… More than 3 in 4 underage teens were denied access to R-rated movies by ticket-sellers and ushers. This is a marked improvement in enforcement and a sign of the movie theater industry’s ongoing commitment to America’s parents.”