Studios Respond to Mass Shootings With Film Ratings Campaign

Hollywood studios, responding to calls for less violence in films following mass shootings last year, unveiled a campaign to help parents screen what children see in movie theaters.

The effort will highlight descriptions that explain industry ratings including PG-13 and R, Chris Dodd, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, and John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said today in Las Vegas.

“We listen very carefully, not just when events occur, but all the time to provide this kind of support to parents,” Dodd, a former U.S. senator, said in an interview.

The updated approach follows January talks between industry representatives and Vice President Joe Biden in the wake of mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in December and at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, in July. Dodd, who had ruled out mandatory curbs on gun violence in movies, suggested more information to help parents choose film for children.

“My understanding is that it was in response to the Sandy Hook shootings and their agreement with the vice president at the time to review the system,” Eric Wold, a B. Riley & Co. analyst in San Francisco, said in an e-mail.

New ratings materials will highlight terms as “drug references” and “violent sequences” along with the letter designations moviegoers have seen for years, according to a public service announcement unveiled with the campaign. Dodd and Fithian were in Las Vegas for the movie exhibitors’ annual CinemaCon convention.

Ratings System

“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,” according to a transcript of Dodd’s remarks provided by the MPAA. “We’ve produced something we believe you will be proud to showcase at your theaters.”

Following the July shooting at a Colorado theater screening “The Dark Knight Rises,” Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. studio deleted a scene of a movie-house shooting in the film “Gangster Squad.”

Films rated PG or higher have included such descriptions since 1990, according to Dodd. The campaign is built around a “Check the Box” theme that gives parents a snapshot of the content in each film.

“These changes make the rating and advertising process more transparent and user-friendly for parents and we are happy to support that endeavor,” Fithian said in prepared remarks.

The MPAA system includes five ratings. G is for general audiences, while PG suggests parental guidance. PG-13 says some material may be inappropriate for children under 13, and R requires an adult to accompany moviegoers under age 17. Films with NC-17 ratings shouldn’t be shown to teens under age 18.

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