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Bo Burnham’s ‘Eighth Grade’ Campaign Gets Some Theaters to Turn Blind Eye to R Rating

A group of nationwide theaters will not enforce rating this Wednesday

While “Eighth Grade” has earned critical acclaim for its unflinching yet empathetic portrayal of modern teenage life, director Bo Burnham has lamented that the film’s R rating has been an obstacle keeping middle schoolers from seeing it. But on Wednesday, A24 will host a group of free screenings at theaters that will not enforce the rating, allowing all ages to see the film.

A theater in each state will host an all-ages screening of the film on Wednesday evening, with most screenings taking place at 7 p.m. local time. Tickets will be available for free at each theater’s guest service booth and are first come, first served.

After a three week limited run in which it posted the best per screen average of 2018, “Eighth Grade” released wide this past weekend, earning $2.8 million from 1,064 theaters with a running total of $6.5 million.

The film has earned critical acclaim with a 99 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, but the R rating is believed to have weighed down ticket sales for the film. The rating was given to the film thanks to a deeply uncomfortable scene in which the 14-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher), is prodded into a very disturbing game of Truth or Dare by an older high schooler.

“What’s most terrifying to me about the scene is that she’s just getting new information and being forced to process it, act on it and make decisions about it,” Burnham said at a post-screening Q&A in Los Angeles. “So part of the failure is the culture’s failure of these kids. Like, we teach them about birth control, but you don’t teach them about what needs to be stated, has to be agreed to. But again, I think that conversation is actually changing rapidly now because of the cultural reckoning around it.”

In another interview with Salon, Burnham said he refused to edit the film down to a PG-13 rating, and encouraged teens to sneak into the movie.

“The truth is, ‘Eighth Grade’ is R-rated because eighth grade is R-rated,” Burnham said. “I can promise to parents that this movie is not exposing anything to kids that kids aren’t very, very aware of.”