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Weinstein Co. to release ‘Bully’ documentary without MPAA rating

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After losing its battle to get the rating of the documentary ‘Bully’ changed from an R to a PG-13, Harvey Weinstein said Monday his company will release the film unrated.

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The move follows Weinstein’s earlier vow to The Times that he would choose the unrated route so that teenagers could see the film, which centers on how teen bullying has affected a number of families throughout the country. ‘Bully’ received an R rating from the Motion Picture Assn. of America because of profanities hurled by children at each other in the film.

An R rating means no children younger than 17 in a theater without an adult. But some large theater chains have a practice, if not a policy, against showing unrated films, and ‘Bully’ may not gain as wide a distribution footprint as it otherwise might have.

For his part, AMC theaters executive Gerry Lopez has said he will stand by the film, suggesting the chain will play it nationally even if it is unrated. Indeed, the movie opens in limited release this weekend at the AMC Century City as well as at the ArcLight Hollywood and the Landmark in Los Angeles, and the Angelika and Lincoln Square in New York.

The film is scheduled to widen its release to about two dozen markets on April 13; those theaters haven’t been disclosed yet. The MPAA and the National Assn. of Theatre Owners did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

The Weinstein Co. appealed the R rating but lost by one vote. A petition to change the rating to PG-13 was signed by more than 400,000 people, including celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Justin Bieber, but the MPAA declined to budge. As it is not a member of the MPAA, the Weinstein Co. has the option to release a film without a rating. (The MPAA is a trade group made up of the six large Hollywood studios.)

In a statement, Weinstein Co. President of Marketing Stephen Bruno suggested that he was not concerned about the distribution issue. “The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and 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.’

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Weinstein previously told The Times that he felt this was the only way to go. ‘We have to do it that way,’ he said. ‘It’s too important to risk the R.’

[For the Record: An earlier version of this post said the movie would play the Lincoln Plaza theater in New York. It will play the Lincoln Square theater.]

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A ‘Bully’ pulpit for Weinstein Co.

‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Bully’ prompt ratings fight

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-- Steven Zeitchik

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