Groups complain about unrestricted access

ROME — “Avatar” is sparking protests from parents’ groups in Italy where the James Cameron blockbuster bows Friday with a controversial general admission rating.

Fox is releasing “Avatar” on a massive 910 Italo screens — 410 of which are 3D equipped — totally unrestricted, unlike most of the rest of the world. Pic is going out later in Italy compared with most other territories to avoid clashing with local comedies that customarily dominate the Italo box office over the holidays.

Elsewhere the MPAA’s PG-13 rating for “Avatar,” “for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking,” has been echoed by age restrictions in most countries, such as 12 in Germany, a 12A (accompanied) in the U.K., and 14 (accompanied) in most of Canada. Exceptions include Quebec and France where “Avatar” has also hit screens unrestricted.

In Italy, the “Avatar” general admission rating prompted the Italian parents org Moige to complain that “the decision represents a discrimination against the protection of Italian children,” citing the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama saw the film with his kids, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, in accordance with its PG rating.

Another group, Italian children’s advocacy org. AGE, is also urging that Italy — where restrictions on movies are either under 14 or under 18 not admitted — should adopt a ratings category similar to PG-13 in the U.S.

Italy’s quirky ratings system, devised in 1962, has long triggered loud lamentations, most recently in 2007 when Mel Gibson’s ultraviolent “Apocalypto” went out with a G rating.

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