Opening Day for "Fahrenheit 9/11": R Rating Upheld, Expansion to 860+ Screens Confirmed
by Eugene Hernandez
The MPAA ruled against Lions Gate Films, IFC Films, and the Weinstein Brothers' Fellowship Adventure Group on Tuesday, rejecting the distributors' request for a PG-13 rating for Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film will be released with an R when it opens in New York City today (Wednesday) and expands to more than 860 screens on Friday.
While MPAA rules that govern rated films allow those under 17 to attend R-rated films only with an accompanying parent or adult guardian, filmmaker Moore encouraged teenagers to disregard authority and sneak into his new film. "Teenagers should be able to see this film and see it on their own," Moore said in a statement Tuesday. "Older teenagers are being sent to Iraq, some never to return. To say that teenagers shouldn't see this movie means that the truth should be kept from them. I encourage all teenagers to come see my movie, by any means necessary. If you need me to sneak you in, let me know."
Lions Gate Films Releasing president Tom Ortenberg told indieWIRE, "We respectfully and strongly disagree with the appeals board decision to uphold the 'R' rating but we accept and will honor that decision."
Ortenberg added that the film has been booked in a total of 868 theaters for its nationwide debut on Friday. While a conservative group has pushed to stop exhibitors from showing the movie, no theaters have complied, Ortenberg said. "No theatre chains have boycotted the film, the efforts of a small-minded few to suppress and censor the film have backfired on them," he told indieWIRE last night. In a statement issued after the MPAA ruling, he said, "The film will open in all 50 states on Friday, and the R rating will not deter the tremendous anticipation and enthusiasm that we see building for 'Fahrenheit 9/11' as more and more people learn about it."
Over at IFC Entertainment, company president Jonathan Sehring echoed Ortenberg's comments. "As anyone who has read a paper, watched TV, surfed the web, or chatted by a water cooler this week can attest, the interest in 'Fahrenheit 9/11' has grown to mammoth proportions," Sehring said in a statement. "It is a shame that 'Fahrenheit 9/11' will become inaccessible to a segment of the American population to whom this film has a great deal of relevance."
In a letter sent to Ortenberg and Sehring, former New York governor Mario Cuomo (who had been enlisted to fight the R rating) detailed some of the reasons for the MPAA's decision to give the film an R rating. (The MPAA refused to let Cuomo appear at the appeal hearing). In the letter, released to the press by the film's distributors, Cuomo said that his conversations with the MPAA revealed that the organization issued the rating due to the use of the word "motherfucker" four times and because of graphic images depicting war casualties and abusive U.S. troop behavior.
"The raters agree that there was nothing else in the film that required any cautionary notice to parents: no nudity, sexual conduct, inappropriate theme, or illicit drug use," Cuomo wrote. "I think it's fair to say that given the common uninstructed interpretation by the public of the R rating, many of the viewers of the film would be surprised to see so few of the undesirable characteristics they expected to find in an R rated film. Why then should the film not be rated a PG-13 as was 'The Lord of the Rings,' a film that is saturated with slaughter, butchery, and corpses -- human and extraterrestrial?"