Once again, ”Fahrenheit 9/11” is tangling with the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board over content issues, this time regarding the controversial documentary’s advertising. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the MPAA, which oversees the content of movie ads, nixed a print ad for the movie that would have contained a rave from Roger Ebert’s thumb-wielding TV partner, Richard Roeper, that read, ”Everyone should see this film.” The reason: the MPAA’s R rating of the movie means not everyone can see it. (The ads ran instead bearing an edited Roeper quotation, saying, ”…See this film.”)
Roeper, Ebert, and executives behind the film’s distribution appealed the decision, but to no avail. ”Everyone knows that Richard Roeper did not call for anyone to violate the R rating, and this ruling is a huge disservice to the public,” Harvey Weinstein, one of the distributors, told the Reporter. ”They don’t trust their own rating system,” Roeper told the New York Post. ”If their system worked, everyone under 17 would be stopped anyway.” He added, ”It’s nice to know I have such power over 17-year-olds. For the record, everyone SHOULD see this film — I stand by my statement.”
It’s not the first time the ”Fahrenheit” distributors have fought the MPAA. Earlier this month, when the board gave the film an R rating (citing graphic war footage and profanity used by soldiers in interview segments), director Michael Moore appealed the decision, arguing that teens who might be called up to fight overseas over the next couple years deserved a chance to see the movie. The board agreed to a softer PG-13 rating only if Moore snipped the offending sequences, which he declined to do. Still, despite the distributors’ fears that the more restrictive rating would harm the film’s box office take, final figures from Monday indicate that ”Fahrenheit” grossed $23.9 million over its opening weekend, 9 percent higher than the record-breaking initial estimate of $21.8 million, and more than enough to surpass Moore’s own ”Bowling for Columbine” as the top-grossing documentary of all time.
One reason the film may have done so well, despite what Weinstein and Roeper have said, is that some theaters apparently are letting underage viewers see the film without adult escorts. The Reporter cites at least three theaters that have decided not to enforce the R rating. ”I really felt that the R rating was totally uncalled for in this picture,” Oakland, Calif. theater owner Allen Michaan said. ”The language it’s citing is what kids hear in their music all the time. The images can be seen on the evening news. My wife and I made a conscious decision to defy the R rating.” He added, ”Ironically, we are the toughest theater in the East Bay when it comes into getting into an R-rated movie. We actually enforce the ratings system vigorously, but I felt this was political censorship and I couldn’t support it.”