WASHINGTON, DC - The Weinstein Company has announced that "Bully," the award-winning documentary about the epidemic of school bullying in the United States, will open in theaters on March 30 as "unrated" after nearly 500,000 people signed an extraordinarily popular online petition at Change.org demanding that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) remove the "R" rating initially given to the movie by the MPAA's ratings board.
"I am happy 'Bully' will maintain its authenticity and will be an accurate portrayal of what thousands of kids experience every day," said Katy Butler, a bullied high school student from Michigan who was outraged that the MPAA gave "Bully" an "R" rating by just one vote because of brief language. Butler, who had her finger broken by bullies in middle school, urged the MPAA to remove the "R" rating from "Bully" so that middle school and high school students would have a chance to see a movie that could potentially save their lives.
"The MPAA might not recognize the reality that thousands of bullied kids face each day in school, but nearly 500,000 people around the country, from celebrities to politicians to bullied kids themselves, stepped up to speak out about bullying by signing my petition," said Butler. "The brief use of vulgar language in this film reflects what so many kids hear each day in school when they're being bullied. The MPAA said they wouldn't drop the 'R' rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure."
Lee Hirsch, director of "Bully," said that the "unrated" designation for the film will allow the film to portray the real trauma and torment that bullied students experience each day in school.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the 'R' rating is there because it's real. It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days," Hirsch said in a statement put out by The Weinstein Company announcing the "unrated" designation. "All of our supporters see that, and we're grateful for the support we've received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it's up to the theaters to let them in."
Gerry Lopez, the CEO of AMC Theaters, one of the largest movie theater chains in the world, signed Katy Butler's Change.org petition. He said previously in a statement that he will make sure "Bully" plays at AMC Theaters even with an "unrated" rating.
"AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke," Lopez said.
Lopez is just one of several high profile individuals who signed Butler's campaign on Change.org . Ellen DeGeneres signed the petition, inviting Butler to appear on her show and urging her viewers to support the petition, and Anderson Cooper, Kelly Ripa, Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Michael Jordan, Demi Lovato, Randy Jackson, and Drew Brees all encouraged their fans to show support to "Bully," objecting to the "R" rating it received.
Live signature totals from Katy Butler's campaign (and comments from signers):