Moore urges teens to flout the restriction

This article was updated at 7:07 p.m.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America’s Rating Appeals Board Tuesday upheld the R rating initially given to Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Separately, the pic will play in 868 theaters when it opens nationally Friday, giving “Fahrenheit” the widest opening ever for a documentary. Previous record holder was “Tupac: Resurrection,” which unspooled in November at 802 locations.

The MPAA rated the pic R “for some violent and disturbing images, and for language.” Rating requires all children under 17 to be accompanied to the film by a parent or guardian.

In a statement, Moore said, “Older teenagers are being sent to Iraq, some never to return. To say that teenagers shouldn’t see this movie means that the truth should be kept from them. I encourage all teenagers to come see my movie, by any means necessary.”

He added, “If you need me to sneak you in, let me know.”

Before the pic opens nationally, it will bow today at two exclusive engagements in Gotham.

Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s Fellowship Adventure Group has pacted with Lions Gate Films and IFC Films to distrib “Fahrenheit” in the U.S.

Lions Gate prexy Tom Ortenberg, who argued the case for a PG-13 at today’s appeal, said, “We’re still hopeful that the film will play to as broad an audience as possible. We hope that parents and guardians will see fit to bring their mature children to this film.”

With the ratings fight ending against them, the “Fahrenheit” camp said the stakes involved were based on principle, not maximizing box office potential.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was hired to argue “Fahrenheit’s” rating appeal, said, “What we were concerned about was limiting the access for 16-, 15- and 14-year-olds, because they are going to be the ones we ask to go fight for us in a few years.”

Cuomo added he will continue to publicly support the pic. “The important thing is that the film is not going to be stopped and probably not even going to be slowed down,” he said.

“We talked internally about whether it could be worth 10% to 20% of the box office,” said IFC prexy Jonathan Sehring, “but personally I’m less concerned about that effect than my own teenaged son not having the ability to go to the movie theater with a group of friends and to have a conversation about the film.”

Moore made no changes to the film screened at the appeal, leaving in the pic some footage of civilian casualties in Iraq and the use of the word “motherfucker.”

Sehring said the ultimate decision on whether to edit the film to appease the MPAA’s concerns was Moore’s alone.

“Michael is well aware of what he could and couldn’t do,” said Sehring. “Michael has worked long, long, long and hard to get this picture where it is and he’s happy with the cut.”

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