Festival Cinemas president criticizes film re-classification order
The president of Festival Cinemas plans to defy an order from Consumer Protection B.C. to re-classify two older movies as part of a series of classic film screenings.
Leonard Schein said he received a letter from Consumer Protection B.C. advising him that he is not permitted to show two films he’s scheduled to screen this month, unless he applies to re-classify them.
“This has nothing to do with consumer protection, it’s just really a money grab,” alleged Schein in a phone interview with the Straight.
“They should be spending their time going after telemarking fraud or home improvement fraud or funeral fraud, and not spending time trying to prevent adults from seeing a black and white, subtitled film that’s made 52 years ago and that’s already been classified as general…in this province for many years,” he claimed.
The movie he’s scheduled to screen this Saturday at Fifth Avenue Cinemas, Francois Truffaut’s 1959 film The 400 Blows, was approved for exhibition in B.C. in 1960 and was classified General for all audiences. Another film he plans to show next weekend, a 1979 Australian film called My Brilliant Career, was approved for exhibition in 1980, and was also classified General.
The screenings are part of a series called See Again: Conversations about Masterpieces of Film. The proceeds are slated to be donated to Seva Canada, a charity that aims to eliminate preventable blindness and restore eyesight in developing countries.
Steve Pelton, the Director of Motion Picture Classification with Consumer Protection B.C., said the two films in question need to be re-classified because the distributors that received the original approval are no longer involved with the films or are no longer in business.
“When a distributor submits a film to us and receives a classification or approval, that approval is limited to that distributor…they have the sole rights to that film and what this does is it prevents other companies from distributing that film,” Pelton told the Straight by phone. “So the distribution industry is very supportive of this rule, because it protects their intellectual property rights.”
Pelton noted the situation with these two particular films is not very common, because often distributors will transfer the rights of the film title to another company, along with the classification.
“It is a little unusual in these circumstances, where we just can’t find any evidence of a current distributor for them,” he said.
The fee for distributors to re-classify a film, as stated in B.C.’s Motion Picture Act, is $2 per minute. Pelton added that in the “vast majority” of cases, Consumer Protection B.C. is able to achieve voluntary compliance with re-classification orders.
“In the case where a theatre is exhibiting some defiance toward the law, then that would become a compliance file and passed over to our compliance team, and they would take it from there,” he said.
“In the case of these two films though, we have not indicated to the theatre, nor do we have any plans to do anything as drastic as seizing the film or something like that.”
Schein argued the cost of re-classifying films is hurting independent theatres, and wants to see provincial regulations updated.
“It’s a direct attack on culture and arts here in B.C., and that’s why we’re asking the B.C. government to change these rules, that once this film is classified, that classification stays," he said.
Schein noted that in addition to the $2 a minute fee, Festival Cinemas would also have to pay $536 for a distributor’s licence before they can apply for re-approval of the films.
“On top of that, we’re showing other films…the following weeks that they’re going to want the same re-classification [for],” he said. “And they’re all been classified in B.C.—these aren’t films that haven’t shown all over the province and been around for many, many years.”
Schein intends to show “The 400 Blows” at 10 a.m. this Saturday (March 24).