A major motion picture trade organization, representing some of the most prominent international distributors of independent English-language movies, is calling on the Motion Picture Assn. of America to change its controversial adults-only X rating classification.
The board of directors of the American Film Marketing Assn., which annually sponsors the showcase American Film Market in Los Angeles, last week unanimously voted to support a new A rating that would identify adult movie fare that is non-pornographic.
"There has been a whole epidemic of X-rated independent movies in the last few months," said American Film Marketing Assn. president Jonas Rosenfield, who indicated that the X rating in many cases had "unfairly" branded the movies in the eyes of the public as being pornographic.
That stigma follows the movie when it is distributed overseas, he contended. "To come into a foreign country with an X-rated picture is a black eye for a film. . . . We are interested in guaranteeing the rights of the independent filmmakers against the impact of the X rating domestically and internationally."
The action by the marketing association board is believed to be the first formal opposition to the 22-year-old rating system that any entertainment industry organization has taken.
Rosenfield on Friday said that he and association chairman Bill Shields were in the process of composing a letter to MPAA president Jack Valenti. The organization represents the views of 120 independent international film distributors, who in 1989 generated an aggregate $1.2 billion in film sales abroad. Members include such firms as the Samuel Goldwyn Co., Carolco Pictures, ABC Entertainment, Pathe International, New Line Cinema and Nelson Entertainment.
The film marketing board's action occurred one week after representatives of the Writers Guild of America West and the Directors Guild of America, plus a number of prominent film directors met with Valenti to discuss the possibility of rating system changes.
In another rating system development last week, the distributor of the X-rated "Hardware" agreed to make a cut in order to gain an R rating from the MPAA.
Miramax Films executive vice president Russell Schwartz said his company feels "Hardware" is a "mainstream film" and, therefore, that "access to all theaters and all advertising media was essential. As we have learned in the past, the X rating so distorts both the public's and the media's perception of a film that we had no choice."
The movie, described by Miramax as a "futuristic thriller," is scheduled to open nationally on Sept. 21.
The New York-based distributor said that producer Joanne Sellar and writer-director Richard Stanley agreed to cut the film after two unsuccessful appeals to overturn the X.
A Miramax spokeswoman said that a scene showing a character being caught and killed in a mechanical door has been altered, with 38 frames removed that eliminated one particularly graphic camera angle. She noted that the total length of film cut will amount to about 1 1/2seconds.