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December Release Could Reduce Shame of NC-17 Rating

It seems like a stigma that should have been broken long ago, and yet, an NC-17 rating for a U.S. theatrical release remains a perceived kiss of commercial death. However, per a great look at this issue from AP writer Jake Coyle, the arrival stateside on December 2 of the critically acclaimed sex addict drama Shame could mark the beginning of an adult ratings marketplace shift.

National Association of Theatre Owners president John Fithian tells Coyle the idea that NC-17 films cannot be advertised in newspapers is something of a myth. As long as the materials are tasteful, it’s not really a problem he argues. (Online, there are no real restrictions.) Also, somewhat surprisingly, he suggests filmmakers are ultimately the ones feeding the stigma:

In surveying 100 theaters, the theater owners’ group found that 97 would play a NC-17 film… “What we currently have is a system that’s slightly flawed in the reluctance of filmmakers and distributors to use the NC-17,” Fithian says. “What they’ll do is cut and trim and try to cram a movie into the R rating category so that it escapes the NC-17, and that’s not a legitimate use of the system. We end up with a very broad R category.”

Sure enough, Fox Searchlight co-president Stephen Gilula says the company is releasing Shame “in spite of” the NC-17 rating. Because the movie’s star Michael Fassbender (pictured) is being hyped as a legit contender for this year’s fifth Oscar Best Actor nominee slot, he may be the midnight cowboy to help finally rectify this upside-down situation.

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