The upcoming documentary "Bully" will appear in theaters as "unrated" after its "R" rating by the MPAA prompted an online petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people seeking to have the rating downgraded.
"Bully," which follows five U.S. students who faced bullying on a daily basis, including two students who committed suicide as a result, was slapped with the restricted rating when it fell one vote short of the Motion Picture Association of America's two-thirds requirement because it contains brief vulgar language.
After an aggressive campaign to remove the "R" rating by the Weinstein Company, which is releasing the award-winning documentary, the studio said Monday it will release the film in theaters March 30.
"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," film director Lee Hirsch said in a statement. "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."
A campaign on the website Change.org demanding that the Motion Picture Association of America remove the "R" rating received more than 500,000 signatures. Many signers believed it is important that teenagers under the age of 17, who are barred from viewing "R" rated films without an accompanying adult, see "Bully" and be able to discuss its message.
A number of celebrities, including Anderson Cooper, Meryl Streep, and Johnny Depp, threw their support behind the campaign to remove the film's "R" rating. Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres also signed the petition and had bullied teen Katy Butler on her program to encourage her show's viewers to sign the petition.
CEO of AMC Theaters Gerry Lopez was another to sign the petition, which was started on Change.org by Butler. Lopez said in a statement released by Change.org that "Bully" will be in AMC Theaters even with an "unrated" rating, a rare move from a major theater chain.
"AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke," Lopez said.
Butler, a Michigan high school student who reportedly had her finger broken by bullies in middle school, began the online campaign so middle school and high school students would be able to see a film, which she believes can save lives.
"I am happy 'Bully' will maintain its authenticity and will be an accurate portrayal of what thousands of kids experience every day," Butler said in the Change.org statement.
"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," she added.
"Bully" won the Audience Award and Jury Award at the 2011 Bergen International Film Festival and took home the Best Picture award at the 2011 Hamptons International Film Festival. The film opens in limited release in New York and Los Angeles Friday.