Separated by an unprotected border, when it comes to Canada and U.S. classification and rating of films, our two countries are vastly different in their approach. The U.S. is covered by the Motion Picture Association of America while Canada has six different classification boards across the country catering to the diversity in our geography.
Killer Reviews has hit the books in an attempt to clarify the differences between the U.S. Motion Picture Association of America and the Ontario Film Review Board of Canada. Here are our findings in a Q&A format.
Q: What is the difference between the Boards in both countries?
A: The U.S. has just one Board, the Motion Picture Association of America with Chris Dodd as acting Chairman and CEO. Canada has six separate Boards across the country The British Columbia Film Classification Office, Ontario Film Review Board, Manitoba Film Classification Board, Maritime Film Classification Board, Régie du cinéma (Quebec), Saskacthewan Film and Video Classification Board.
Q: Who are the Members on the Board?
A: The U.S. Board Members are the six largest studios; The Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Bros.
Canada does not have studio influence.
Q: Who pays for the Board?
A: In the U.S., the Board is paid for by the studios. In Canada, taxpayers pay the Board.
Q: What is the difference in the rating system?
A: In the U.S., the primary MPAA ratings are G (General Audiences), PG (Parental Guidance Suggested/Some material might not be suitable for children), PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned/Some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13), R (Restricted/Under 17 not admitted without parent or adult guardian), and NC-17 (No One 17 and Under Admitted).
Canada has five rating classification levels, G (General Audiences), PG (Parental Guidance is advised. 14A (Suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age or older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult), 18A (Suitable for viewing by persons 18 years of age or older. Persons under 18 must be accompanied by an adult). R (Restricted/ Admittance restricted to persons 18 years of age or older).
Q: Is it mandatory to get a film rated?
A: The main difference between the two is that the U.S. rating system is a voluntary one that is administered by the movie industry. In Canada, it is a government body that requires by statute that distributors submit their films for classification.
Q: What occurs if a film does not get rated?
A: In the U.S., films not submitted for classification are considered NR (Not Rated) and might still find independent release at select theatres. In Canada, a film cannot be generally released if not classified by the Board.
Q: Can a film be appealed if a filmmaker disagrees with the classification given?
A: Yes. In Canada, the appeals are handled by a panel of Board Members who have not previously seen the film in question. This appeal panel is the final arbiter. The appeal is requested by the film's distributor, orally or in writing, outlining why he or she is unsatisfied with the decision of the original panel. In the United States, appeals are decided by industry representatives who sit on the MPAA Ratings Appeal Board. This appeal board is the final arbiter of the rating of a particular film.
Q: How much does it cost to rate a film?
A: In the U.S. a film can cost between $2,500 and $25,000 to have rated by the MPAA. In Canada, it costs $4.20 per minute to have the Board review and classify.
Q: How many NC-17 Rated films were there in 2011?
A: The U.S. had three NC-17 Classified films in 2011: Killer Joe, A Serbian Film, Shame. Canada did not have any films above an R-Rating in 2011.
Q: Which of the two countries is more lenient?
A: The U.S. is typically more open to violence while Canada is more open to nudity and foul language. For instance, 21 Jump Street, A Dangerous Method and Jeff, Who Lives At Home were rated Restricted in the U.S. but only 14A in Canada.
Sources: ofrb.gov.on.ca, mpaa.com, torontostar.com, wikipedia.org