By Zorianna Kit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Weinstein Co. on Monday said it has decided to release its documentary "Bully" without a U.S. film rating after failing to persuade the Motion Picture Association of America to change to one that is less restrictive.
"Bully," set for release on March 30, has drawn controversy over the MPAA's "R" rating that means people under 17-years-old must be accompanied by adult to see it. The group gave it the rating due to strong language used by kids in the movie.
Opponents of the MPAA's decision, including Weinstein Co., argue that many youth need to see the film in order to tackle the problem of bullying, and the "R" rating will bar kids not only from theaters but also from watching it in schools.
The MPAA, which represents Hollywood's major movie studios in governmental matters, rates films for content such as sex, violence and language to give audiences an idea of what will be in the movies they see.
Releasing "Bully" unrated means anyone will be admitted where it is screened, but in the past many major theater chains have spurned films without an MPAA rating. As a result, distributors such as Weinstein Co. seek the ranking.
"We believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what's right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves. We're working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country," Weinstein Co. marketing president Stephen Bruno said in a statement.
Weinstein Co. had appealed the "R" earlier this year and sought a less-restrictive rating, but the MPAA refused to budge. Director Lee Hirsch could edit out the objectionable words, but has declined to make changes arguing the language is essential to the story.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the R rating is there because it's real. It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days," Hirsch said in a statement. "All of our supporters see that, and we're grateful for the support we've received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it's up to the theaters to let them in."
(Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)