The Weinstein Co. has backed down on "Bully," cutting F-words from the documentary to get a teen-friendly PG-13 rating ahead of its April 13 expansion into 55 markets.
The MPAA originally gave the documentary an R rating for language, holding firm despite a grass-roots campaign for a PG-13 rating. After the campaign by Weinstein co-chair Harvey Weinstein, various celebrities and online petitioners failed to sway the MPAA, the company decided to release the movie unrated instead.
The film premiered last week.
The unrated release posed a challenge for theaters chains: one opting not to screen the film at all, two others treating it as if it were rated R, and the AMC theater chain allowing viewers under 17 to see the movie unaccompanied if they brought a permission slip.
"Bully" director Lee Hirsch said he felt "completely vindicated" by the new rating. "“While I retain my belief that PG-13 has always been the appropriate rating for this film, as reinforced by Canada's rating of a PG, we have today scored a victory from the MPAA."
The new rating will also allow various schools, organizations, including the National Education Association and the Cincinnati School District, to screen the film for children as they had hoped.
Joan Graves, chairman of the Classification and Ratings Administration, said that the new edit of the film received a PG-13 "for intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language – all involving kids. In the case of 'Bully,' the ratings system has worked exactly as it is supposed to: parents have been kept informed of the content of each version of the film, and they have been given the information they need to make movie-going decisions on behalf of their kids."
The MPAA also waived the 90-day window that's usually required for the releases for two differently-rated versions of the same film.
The new rating came with "great support" from MPAA chairman Chris Dodd, the Weinstein Co. said in a statement. During a screening in Washington prior to the documentary's release, Dodd suggested trimming a few of the curse words to get the lower PG-13 rating.