HOLLYWOOD -- The first major change in the movie rating system in 16 years will take effect July 1, adding a PG-13 classification to warn parents that a film may be too violent for children under 13, movie officials announced Wednesday.
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the change was prompted by 'a number of films in the marketplace whose contents have placed them awkwardly beyond PG but not clearly within the R.'
PG suggests parental guidance and R requires that moviegoers under 17 be accompanied by an adult.
'To repair that apparent vacancy, the PG-13 was designed,' Valenti said in a joint statement with Joel Resnick, president of the National Associationof Theater Owners.
Two new Steven Spielberg films, 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' and 'Gremlins,' provided the impetus for creating the new rating, although neither Valenti nor Resnick singled out the box-office hits.
Both movies were rated PG despite such scenes as a victim's heart being torn out with bare hands and a movie monster being stuffed in a fruit juicer.
Negative reaction to the films' PG rating, including audiences marching out of theaters after a title monster in 'Gremlins' explodes in a microwave oven, finally convinced Valenti and several studios that had opposed any change that a new rating was necessary.
Unlike the ratings R and X -- no one under 17 admitted -- the PG-13 rating will be cautionary rather than mandatory. Theaters are required to enforce the R and X ratings, but often do not.
Valenti, who created the rating system in 1968, and Resnick reasserted their long-held belief that the public should not expect the rating system to exercise responsibilities that belong to parents.
'The rating system is not a surrogate parent nor should it be,' they said. 'It cannot insert itself in family decisions that only parents can make.
'The objective of the rating system during all of its 16-year life is to give some press screening information, some cautionary warnings, so that parents can form their own judgment about the moviegoing of their children.'
Valenti said the new rating was prompted in part by the fact the system had effectively been reduced to only two categories, PG and R. The major studios have not released X-rated films in over a decade, and avoid making G-rated films because even younger children reject them as 'kid stuff.'
The non-mandatory nature of the new PG-13 classification should counter many opponents' objections that children of that age do not carry identification and that theater owners have been poorly enforcing the mandatory R and X restrictions.