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CinemaCon: MPAA Unveils Tweaked Movie Ratings

Check the Box initiative features reasons ratings were given, PSA spots

The movie ratings system is getting a makeover, it was revealed Tuesday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, unveiled an initiative that highlights the reasons for giving specific ratings and includes PSA and poster material to be showcased at theaters.

“The campaign we are announcing today focuses on these descriptors, giving parents the information they need to navigate the rating system and movies coming to their theaters,” Dodd said in his state of the industry speech. ” We’ve produced something we believe you will be proud to showcase at your theaters.”

Called “Check the Box,” the new initiative from the MPAA and the National Assn. of Theater Owners is the most exciting piece of news that came from the chest-pumping speeches from Dodd and NATO prexy-CEO John Fithian.

Fithian, meanwhile, appealed to the studios for more family friendly films, citing box office stats as proof of their success.

“Consider these numbers. 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 movies released,” Fithian said. “And the mighty PG movies nearly grossed what the R-rated movies generated, with less than one-third the number of titles.”

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The spotlight on ratings is a curious subject for the industry addresses, although not altogether surprising given the recently revived debate over violence in the media.

“Let’s be frank, it’s cool to be Quentin Tarantino,” Fithian said at a press conference afterwards. “But there’s often a difference in philosophy between filmmakers and the exhibition community as to what sells.”

Personally, Dodd said it’s not his job to criticize the studios: “Our job is to provide information, not to be critics,” he said.

Fithian praised exhibs for supporting the PSA spot to be screened before feature trailers, an extremely lucrative ad space for studios and exhibs. The 17-member NATO board voted unanimously to approve playing the spot.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Fithian added. “You’re asking business people to give up millions of dollars to do the right thing. And they’re doing it.”

The “Check the Box” campaign also includes a redesign of the ratings box that appears in movie advertisements and before trailers.

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