M stamp is no curse for new Potter film
By Andrew Darby and Garry Maddox
June 5, 2004
There may be a werewolf and a giant spider, not to mention dementors who suck the life essence out of humans.
But the first Australian children to see the new Harry Potter movie shrugged the monsters away. Not too scary, was their verdict - and their parents agreed.
The movie's distributor, Village Roadshow, is appealing against an M15+ rating for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It is a tougher classification from the Federal Office of Film and Literature than the PG for previous Potter movies.
Before its release next week on mainland screens, and even ahead of the premiere in the US, the latest instalment of the series has been released in Tasmania to coincide with the state's school holidays. Yesterday queues snaked outside Village's central Hobart cinema despite polar air and snow on Mount Wellington.
Some waiting in line were unaware of the classification, such as Birgit Tanase of Berriedale and her 10-year-old son Jay. "M rating?" she said. "Well, I think Jay has travelled extensively around the globe and is used to things. I'm sure Harry Potter can do no harm."
Others had heard of it, among them a group of 14-year-old schoolgirls at the head of the queue. "If you've read the book, you're not worried," said one, Jodie Bosworth. Frances Atkinson added: "It's not a horror movie. It hasn't got anything sexual. It's fantasy."
Many of the audience for the morning shows were teenagers, but parents accompanied younger children, including what seemed to be a large number of nine-year-olds.
"Nine is about the age that children start on Harry Potter," said Karin Eickhoff, who took her son Aaron. He enjoyed it. "It was better than the last two, but not scary," Aaron said.
An appeal against the film's classification is due to be heard on Tuesday, two days before the movie's release in other states. Cinemas are divided over whether the rating is a marketing disaster or a side issue, given that the audience for the series is growing up.
One rival distributor, who asked not to be named, said the buzz about the movie being darker could limit the under-12 audience unless the rating was changed to PG.
"If it's between maybe Shrek 2 and Harry Potter, they might go with Shrek 2 because it's PG."
The marketing director for 20th Century Fox, John Scott, admitted to worrying about whether to take his own six-year-old, who has read all the Potter books but has never seen an M movie.
"I'm a little bit torn as a parent," he said. "Half of me thinks he'll get it but the other half feels quite responsible for exposing him to something like that. I think a lot of parents will be having the same deliberation."
But Mr Scott thought the popularity of the series and the strong British opening suggested the rating would have only a marginal impact on box office.
"It's definitely going to be one of the biggest grossing films of the year," he said.