The ratings board would like to keep everybody under 18 away from the Cannes prize winner, but its ratings are voluntary
One major New York theater, the IFC Center, has announced that it will not enforce the NC-17 rating given to “Blue Is the Warmest Color” — and there is nothing the Motion Picture Association of America can do to make them do it.
Despite the stern warning “No one 17 and under admitted” on the NC-17 label, the restriction is merely a recommendation made to theater owners by the MPAA, and seconded by the National Association of Theater Owners.
The recommendation does not legally bind theaters, however, and exhibitors told theWrap that no effective enforcement mechanism exists to make them comply.
In the MPAA’s official Classification and Ratings Rules, all the sanctions aimed at violators deal with the companies that release films, not the theaters that show them.
“The rating system is voluntary, but we strongly encourage theaters to enforce the rating age restrictions as applied to any movie,” a NATO spokesperson told theWrap.
The MPAA declined to comment on IFC's decision not to enforce the rating.
“Blue Is the Warmest Color” has won raves since it debuted at May’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or. This week, the senior vice president of the IFC Center in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood told the New York Times in a statement that the film is “not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds.”
John Vanco added that “high-school age patrons” would be admitted to the movie, a coming-of-age story in which Adele Exarchopoulos plays a teen who falls into a passionate sexual relationship with an older girl played by Lea Seydoux.
The film was rated NC-17 for “explicit sexual content” – and Sundance Selects, which picked up the film’s U.S. distribution rights after Cannes, said that it would release the film under that rating because “an NC-17 rating no longer holds the stigma it once did.”
Sundance Selects is a division of IFC Films, a New York-based company that also operates the IFC Center.
Other theaters have yet to announce admission policies for “Blue.” Gregory Laemmle, the president of the Southern California-based Laemmle chain of arthouse theaters, told theWrap that his company has not formulated a policy for the film.
In Boise, Idaho, though, the Flicks arthouse has said that it will not be able to show the film at all, because its liquor license forbids it from showing movies that include simulated sex, masturbation, oral copulation or the fondling of breasts and genitals.
Unlike the MPAA’s guidelines, Idaho’s restrictions do have the force of law behind them.
Steve Pond, awards editor at TheWrap, is also author of the L.A. Times bestseller The Big Show. He has been covering entertainment for more than two decades, and is the industry's most knowledgeable Academy Awards prognosticator.