The MPAA certainly gave the documentary Bully a hard time with its rating, but the Producers Guild of America is showing the anti-bullying documentary some love: It has awarded the film its Stanley Kramer Award, bestowed on a film which raises public awareness on an important issue. The film, which initially received an R rating until filmmakers cut a few cuss words to get the PG-13, is shortlisted for Best Documentary in the Oscar race. This comes months after The Weinstein Company‘s Harvey and Bob Weinstein were selected to receive the PGA’s Milestone Award, which will be presented at the same event January 26. Here is the PGA’s official announcement:
EXCLUSIVE: Lee Hirsch, whose feature documentary Bully became a cause celebre when it received an R rating, has signed with ICM Partners. Bully premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and was released by The Weinstein Company. Hirsch’s feature debut came on Amandla! A Revolution In Four Part Harmony, which won the Sundance Audience Award in 2002. He also produced and directed Act Of Honor for the History Channel, and episodes of the Discovery Channel series Nextworld.
Hirsch is also the founder, director, and producer of the Local Voices for Obama project, a series of ads featuring supporters of President Obama. His ads garnered him several 2009 Reed Awards, including Best Presidential Ad and Best Independent Expenditure.
Code Black Entertainment’s Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day hit the ground running among specialty releases, averaging a solid $6,376 in 102 locations, managing a higher per theater average than any other movie among the top 15 grossers. Outside the top 15 but not far behind it in per-theater business, Music Box’s Monsieur Lazhar averaged $6,310 in 19 sites. Loosed and Lazhar generated some sparks in the overall North American box office which is down 11% from the comparable weekend last year. Roadside Attractions debuted Blue Like Jazz in 136 locations, taking in nearly $270K, with a less impressive $1,963 average, while Anchor Bay bowed Touchback in 50 theaters, averaging $1,500. And Variance Films opened Hole documentary Hit So Hard at one location in New York City over the weekend, which even brought out a “reunion” of the band fronted by Courtney Love at a party for the film. The doc took in $6,500.
Among second-weekend holdovers, Sony Classics’ Damsels In Distress, averaged $4,229 in 18 additional theaters from its debut, vs. the feature’s $16,050 in 4 theaters Easter weekend. Sundance Selects added a dozen locations for its Cannes ’11 feature We Have A Pope, averaging $3,600 (versus an average $10,133 in three theaters last weekend). The distributor’s other foreign-language release, The Kid With A Bike continued its rollout with 16 additional theaters in its fifth weekend out. The Cannes ’11 prize-winner is now the Dardennes Brothers’ highest …
The Weinstein Company docu Bully has really touched a nerve. In the latest promotion for the Lee Hirsch-directed film, New York Yankees stars Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and manager Joe Girardi took time to do a PSA to urge the audience to sign on to a website for the film and its Bully Project petition. The Yankees stars join an army of other celebs who’ve spoken out against bullying, on behalf of a film that already got more publicity than most documentaries before the MPAA changed the film’s R rating to a PG-13. Here’s the PSA:
Damsels In Distress and We Have A Pope lead a new crop of specialty releases for the holiday weekend: Sony Pictures Classics’ Damsels averaging a robust $16,050 in four theaters and a total of $64,200 while Sundance Selects’ Pope averaged a solid $10,133 at three locations and total of $31,500. Director Whit Stillman’s first feature since Last Days Of Disco (1998), Damsels had originally been intended for release by the now long defunct Warner Independent when the director first approached Castle Rock with the concept, but was eventually picked up by Sony Pictures Classics. Disco opened back in May of ’98 at 22 theaters, averaging $12,618 and eventually taking in just over $3 million. SPC will continue to expand the film slowly with additional cities in the coming weeks.
Fairing more modestly in its opening weekend is Wrekin Hill’s documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, which launched at one theater each in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Director Morgan Spurlock, who lead the multi-camera collaboration that captured the scene at last year’s annual mammoth comic book extravaganza Comic-Con, attended one screening in each city participating in post-screening Q&As. “The film opened [in these cities] so Morgan could be in each city,” a spokesperson for Wrekin Hill told Deadline. “The numbers were generally skewed by …
The Weinstein Company and the MPAA have come to terms on a PG-13 rating for Bully, the timely documentary that would have been hamstrung by an R rating for objectionable language. TWC released it without a rating, which didn’t help matters. The compromise is that the film is shy a few cuss words, but retains a chilling scene depicting bullies in action. And the brouhaha has given the film a ton of free publicity and attention that documentaries rarely receive.
A statement by MPAA ratings board chairman Joan Graves said this afternoon that The Weinstein Company resubmitted an edited version of Bully, and the board gave the new version a PG-13 “for intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language – all involving kids.” Graves stated “the ratings system has worked exactly as it is supposed to” and emphasized the same process is available to all filmmakers. The MPAA has also granted The Weinstein Company a waiver eliminating the usual 90-day window required between the release of two differently-rated versions of the same movie, which allows TWC to release the PG-13 Bully now.
April 5, 2012 – New York, NY – The Weinstein Company (TWC), aided by the guidance and consultation from attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, announced today that the MPAA has lowered the R rating, given for some language, for BULLY to a PG-13 in time for the film’s April 13th expansion to 55 markets. The scene that has been at the forefront of the battle with the MPAA, the intense scene in the film that shows teen Alex Libby being bullied and harassed on a bus, has been left fully intact and unedited. BULLY director Lee Hirsch felt editing the scene was not an option, and subsequently refused to do so, since it is too important to the truth and integrity behind the film.
Clearly riding solid numbers following its media blitz campaigning against the MPAA’s R rating, Bully opened in five locations, with a hefty $23,000 average, not bad for a small documentary released unrated. Under normal circumstances, going unrated might spell box office trauma, but distributor The Weinstein Company and director Lee Hirsch capitalized on their spat with the MPAA and rode it to many news shows and sympathetic celebrity tweets. In all, Bully has scored the top non-fiction rollout for 2012 (on a weekend that was generally a box office cash cow domestically) amid rumors TWC will possibly release a PG-13 version in the coming weeks. A Weinstein Co. spokesperson told Deadline, however, those rumors are not true, but schools and churches have reached out to TWC for a PG-13 version. “No other versions have been submitted although we are in contact with the MPAA and are being advised by David Boies on those negotiations,” the TWC spokesperson told Deadline. The Tribeca Film Festival debut doc will continue to expand unrated. Bully will open Good Friday in Toronto and continue into the top 25 markets April 13th with a wider rollout planned thereafter. It remains to be seen if some theaters will shy away from Bully because of its non-rating (which most venues in effect treat as a de facto NC-17), though Hirsch told …
A slate of documentaries are part of this weekend’s specialty offerings including The Weinstein Company’s high-profile Bully, which should garner some decent box office cha-ching based on publicity alone due to its fight to reverse an R rating from the MPAA. But before it was in the media spotlight, its filmmaker struggled to make the feature much like most indie directors. New Yorker Films is also utilizing school-yard teasing as one way to spread the word about its controversial Norwegian feature Turn Me On, Dammit! Samuel Goldwyn Films is hoping to replicate one of its past successes by keeping the focus on its main subject for its rollout The Island President. And filmmaker Alan Govenar happened upon a low-profile center of Beat culture in Paris, taking what was originally intended to be a short film about the topic and turned it into a full feature in The Beat Hotel.
Based on the reviews I’ve read of the documentary Bully, the MPAA’s decision to uphold an R rating that excludes the target audience seems one of the ratings board’s more absurd judgements. Releasing unrated is a gamble, and The Weinstein Co co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and his team tried to stack their odds by taking to Twitter, and the response was resounding. They’ve reached over 105 million followers from individual tweets and another 10 million from organizations. Among the celebs who’ve participated in tweeting the film are:
March 26, 2012 – New York, NY – After a recent plea to the MPAA by BULLY teen Alex Libby and The Weinstein Company (TWC) Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein failed – by one vote – to get the film its deserved PG-13 rating, TWC is choosing to move forward with releasing the film unrated by the MPAA on March 30. BULLY will be released in theaters on Friday, March 30th in New York at the Angelika Film Center and AMC Lincoln Square and in Los Angeles at The Landmark, ArcLight Hollywood and AMC Century City.
Do the movie studios which make up the MPAA realize that Chris Dodd is now part of non-member The Weinstein Company’s publicity machine? First there was Harvey Weinstein’s PR offense over the MPAA’s refusal to change the rating for The Weinstein Company documentary Bully from an R to a PG-13. Then at the Oscars the MPAA chief and Harvey Weinstein were seen hugging it out. Now Dodd, Weinstein and the film’s director Lee Hirsch will come together for a screening and panel discussion. Joining the group Thursday March 15th in Washington DC will be Kaya Henderson, the D.C. public schools chancellor. I’m not trying to say that bullying isn’t an awful problem or the MPAA isn’t wrong in its rating. But looks like Weinstein once again will get free publicity for one of his films – and how many actual MPAA members wouldn’t love that for their pics.
Bully director Lee Hirsch said today that the media frenzy over the MPAA giving his school-bullying film an R rating has helped the Weinstein Co documentary gain exposure and made the movie more important. “It’s given youth a sense of ownership over it and raised our profile,” Hirsch told Deadline today. It’s been another busy news cycle for the doc: A petition started by Michigan student Katy Butler featuring 200,000 signatures demanding the MPAA change its rating to PG-13 was delivered to the LA offices of the organization, which responded by defending its original decision to rate the film R on the basis of excessive foul language. “The R rating and description of ‘some language’ for Bully does not mean that children cannot see the film,” Classification and Rating Administration chair Joan Graves said. “As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully.”
Hirsch said the filmmakers had started their own petition, which received several thousand signatures, but were shocked by Butler’s much bigger success. “It really is a miracle and a dream come true,” the director said of Butler’s efforts. “It’s much bigger than the ratings battle. I can tell you straight up though, we couldn’t have dreamed this up.”
The fight over Bully continues, with the National Association of Theatre Owners now making its own threats. News came out last week that the MPAA upheld its R-rating for The Weinstein Company’s Tribeca 2011 doc about school bullying and since then the Weinstein Co has considered releasing the doc unrated and even to boycott the MPAA altogether, a move could have implications for its future releases. If TWC indeed goes ahead with releasing the film unrated, NATO said today in a letter to Weinstein boss Harvey Weinstein that it will urge members to consider the Lee Hirsch-directed film an NC-17 movie. In the letter (see below), NATO president and CEO John Fithian said he would “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. 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.”
UPDATE, 5:33 PM: The MPAA has issued this response from Joan Graves, chair of the association’s Classification and Rating Administration, which doles out movie ratings. Here it is:
“Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children. The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that Bully can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions.
The MPAA also has the responsibility, however, to acknowledge and represent the strong feedback from parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies, including language.
The rating and rating descriptor of ‘some language,’ indicate to parents that this movie contains certain language. With that, some parents may choose to take their kids to this movie and others may not, but it is their choice and not ours to make for them. The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it. Once advised, many parents may take their kids to see an R-rated film. School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.”
Privately, an MPAA insider told Deadline’s Nikki Finke that Harvey Weinstein is threatening a “leave of absence” from the MPAA ratings system for “Pure publicity. He is not a member so he can’t take a leave. He might choose not to have his films rated, which is his right. It is up to theaters if they want to show unrated films. Some do. Others don’t.”
PREVIOUS, BREAKING… Harvey Weinstein today says his company is considering “a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future”. It’s not a member of the movie studio lobbying and ratings group. But this follows the association upholding its R-rating on the indie distributor’s documentary Bully. The ruling puts a dent in Harvey Weinstein’s plan for the studio and filmmakers to show the film as a teaching tool in middle schools and high schools (a screening of the film is planned for tomorrow at LA’s Fairfax High). The ratings board originally gave the documentary about school bullying the rating based on language, and Weinstein personally attended the appeals hearing today; the board requires a two-thirds vote, and Weinstein says the Lee Hirsch-directed film fell one vote short of becoming PG-13.
The Weinstein Co won its appeal of the MPAA’s rating for Blue Valentine last year, but the distributor missed this one today. The filmmakers and Harvey Weinstein were looking for a PG-13 rating so they could show the documentary about bullying to middle schools and high schools.
LOS ANGELES — The Classification and Rating Appeals Board today upheld the R rating given to the movie Bully. The Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) had assigned the movie the R rating for “some language.” In the appeal brought by The Weinstein Company, LLC, the Appeals Board heard statements on behalf of Bully from Harvey Weinstein, Co-Chairman of the Weinstein Company and Alex Libby, one of the boys in the film. The Classification and Rating Administration was represented by Chairman Joan Graves.
The Weinstein Company will appeal to the MPAA after the film-rating group slapped the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival documentary Bully with an R rating. Harvey Weinstein and one of the film’s featured subjects Alex Libby will attend a hearing on the matter set for Thursday in Sherman Oaks, with Motion Picture Consulting’s Ethan Noble assisting Weinstein. The R-rating was made due to “language,” restricting minors under 17 from seeing the Lee Hirsch-directed film about the effects of school bullying unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. That would in effect ban screenings at U.S. middle and high schools, where Weinstein and the filmmakers want to show it. ”We have to change hearts and minds in order to stop this epidemic, which has scarred countless lives and driven many children to suicide,” said Hirsch, who became a regular on shows such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 following the film’s premiere last year, which coincided with several teen suicides allegedly as a result of school bullying. The film is set for a March 30 release in theaters. The Weinstein Co is no stranger to MPAA rating hearings: It successfully overturned a NC-17 rating in 2010 for Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.