Process for Rating Films To Become More Public

Hollywood Reporter
Saturday, January 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 19 -- The secretive movie ratings system -- the bane of filmmakers, who often complain that it is inconsistent -- is about to get an overhaul.

For the first time in its 38-year history, the group that operates the system plans to make its ratings rules public. It will also describe the standards for each rating and detail the appeal process.

In addition, it plans to publish demographic information about the parents who serve on the ratings board and reveal the identities of its senior raters. To date, the identities of the people who hand out the various ratings -- such as the family-friendly G and the much-feared NC-17 -- have been a closely guarded secret.

The ratings system was established by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). Although they don't plan to unveil anything as dramatic as a new letter rating, they do have other changes in mind. The size of the appeals board will increase later this year, with the MPAA and NATO appointing new members. And while filmmakers have not been allowed to cite precedents in other films when appealing a rating, that also is about to change.

The ratings board looks at about 900 films a year.

"Not much is going to change," said film producer and media executive David Noll. "I'd be surprised to see if, for anyone across the movie industry, it's going to make a bit of difference." Noll's City Lights media group produced the John Waters film "A Dirty Shame," which received an NC-17 rating for its sexual content. "Our movie got slapped with an NC-17 rating for being sexually naughty. I was shocked. And yet you can have movies so violent and gory and they get a R rating. But our movie had no nudity whatsoever, merely sexual terms and situations. And they said, right away, that's an NC-17." Washington Post staff writer Desson Thomson contributed to this report.

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