The MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration originally gave it an R, meaning children under the age of 17 will not be admitted to see it, because of some language used in Lee Hirsch's "urgent and intimate look at America's bullying crisis," TWC said in a news release Thursday.
The studio said more than half of the appeals board felt the movie should be rated PG-13, but the MPAA rules stipulate a two-thirds vote is necessary to overturn an original ruling. The final tally was one vote short of the number needed to reverse the original decision.
TWC said the board's decision eliminates the potential for "Bully" to be shown in middle and high schools, where the film could be used as a tool to stop "an epidemic of physical, psychological and emotional violence."
"As of today, The Weinstein Co. is considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future," Harvey Weinstein, TWC co-chairman, said in a statement. "We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far. I have been through many of these appeals, but this one vote loss is a huge blow to me personally. Alex Libby [one of the bullying victims featured in the film] gave an impassioned plea and eloquently defended the need for kids to be able to see this movie on their own, not with their parents, because that is the only way to truly make a change. With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind."
Weinstein said he plans to ask celebrities such as pop star Lady Gaga, Britain's Duchess of Cambridge and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama -- who already support anti-bullying efforts -- "to take a stand with me in eradicating bullying and getting the youth in to see this movie without restriction."