Pic ratings to include explainers

NATO prexy: System will alert parents

NEW YORK — Responding to criticism that the current ratings system does not provide parents with sufficient information, MPAA president and CEO Jack Valenti has announced a new ratings policy calling for all movie print advertising to include an explanation of why a film received its particular rating.

Agreement on the new policy, which will be implemented in the new year, was reached following a meeting of the policy review committee of the Classification and Rating Administration, the MPAA board that decides movie ratings. The committee includes both Valenti and the outgoing prexy of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, William F. Kartozian.

“The new print advertising policy will be a key part of our educational outreach effort and represents a major step toward enhancing parental awareness of motion picture content,” Kartozian said in a statement. “We are enormously grateful to Mr. Valenti and the many others at the MPAA who championed this effort to more widely disseminate this valuable information.”

The explanations, to be tailored to each film, will run on billboards, in newspaper ads and in point of sale material. Traditionally, the MPAA has sent a weekly list of ratings explanations out to various publications and has posted them on its Web site, but the org has not before mandated that they be printed in advertisements.

Under fire

This year, the MPAA’s ratings board has been under attack for the way it has rated such films as Warner Bros.’ “Eyes Wide Shut” and Paramount’s “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.”

Just Tuesday, Kirk Douglas sent out a statement that questioned the MPAA’s decision to give an R rating to Miramax’s upcoming comedy “Diamonds,” in which he stars. While the film is said to include scenes of prostitutes and pot smoking, Douglas points out that “there is no violence or nudity and it maintains a light warm-hearted spirit throughout.” The MPAA has since rescinded its ruling and given “Diamonds” a PG-13.

Cautious optimism

The announcement has so far been met with cautious optimism from producers and filmmakers. While hopeful that the new policy will make the current ratings more useful to parents, most studio spokesmen chose to withhold their opinions and take a wait-and-see attitude toward the new policy.

Miramax, which in addition to the “Diamonds” matter had a dust-up with the MPAA over a 30-second ad for the Dimension comedy “Teaching Mrs. Tingle,” was one of the few studios to come out completely in favor of the new policy.

“I think it works for the company and I think it works for the consumer,” said Miramax West Coast prexy Mark Gill. “The more information that you give the public, the more they will be able to make suitable choices for themselves and their families.”