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CAPTIVITY runs afoul of MPAA

The upcoming film CAPTIVITY – a torture-horror movie along the lines of HOSTEL, but with a slightly higher pedegree, thanks to “serious” director Roland Joffee (THE MISSION) – has run afoul of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPAA has suspended the ratings process for the film for one month, because the distributor posted some unapproved billboard advertisements in Los Angeles and New York. This could put the film’s planned May 18 release date in jeopardy; unless CAPTIVITY is passed with an R the first time through, the time it takes to recut and resubmit the movie may be too much.

Taking the paranoid viewpoint to exaggerated lengths, Brad Brevet at RopeOfSilicon.Com suggests that this is some kind of power play on the part of the MPAA:

  • My guess is that the MPAA saw this as a chance to take a shot at a movie that was probably not going to make much money at the box-office in the first place and would probably be raped by critics provided it is even shown to a critical audience. Therefore this means we have what will be considered a flop on our hands that can be blamed on bad marketing tactics and people will assume it means you can’t play games with the MPAA.

    However, what if this was a Steven Spielberg film, or Scorsese, or Eastwood? Chances are there would have been no punishment, at least not a punishment that would effect the film’s planned release, too much money is at stake.

I’m not sure what makes Brevet think the MPAA needs to throw its weight around by picking on a low-budget independent film, and his speculation on what would have happend to a major Hollywood film is just that – speculation – because Spielberg and Eastwood would have more sense than to try what CAPTIVITY’s distributor, Lionsgate, did.

Here’s what the ruckus is about: Why you submit a film to the MPAA for a rating, you don’t submit just the film; you also submit trailers and advertising materials. Lionsgate submitted the billboard ads, and the MPAA rejected them as “inappropriate for general public viewing.”

Then Lionsgate went ahead and posted the billboards anyway – before the MPAA had rated the movie!

Now, I’m all for thumbing your nose at the MPAA – God knows they’ve made some dumb decisions over the years. But it’s sheer stupidity to submit a film to the MPAA, break their rules, and and not expect to be punished in some way. It’s especially stupid when the issue is advertising, not the film itself. Sure, fight to keep the movie from being recut to avoid an NC-17, but don’t let the frickin’ billboard interfere with your film’s chance to get rated in time for its release date.

I suppose it’s just barely possible that Lionsgate may have deliberately done this in order to generate a little free publicity; if so they expected a small slap on the wrist – not something that might delay their release date. As the saying goes, play with fire and you will get burned.

If you don’t want to submit your film, fine – that’s the real rebel route to take. But if you do submit, you’re pretty much obligated to play by the rules, like ’em or not.