The giant Blockbuster Video chain has struck a sharp blow to the new NC-17 movie rating by announcing that it will not stock any movie that carries the adults-only designation.
As America's largest video retailer with 1,600 outlets, the move by Blockbuster Video was the clearest sign yet of a growing perception that NC-17 equals the X rating that it replaced.
"We have always had a policy that we don't carry any movie that the Motion Picture Association of America rates X," said Blockbuster spokesman Ron Castell by telephone from the company's Florida headquarters.
"When they revised the X rating, we said we would wait and see how they would use the new rating. But the criteria used for NC-17 was the same as the X," Castell said.
"So we're saying that since NC-17 is the same criteria as the X, we're not going to carry it."
Many theater chains, video stores and newspapers previously have announced they would judge NC-17 rated movies case-by-case before booking, stocking or running ads for films with that rating. But Blockbuster's decision is one of the first that categorically bars all movies with the NC-17 rating.
The NC-17 rating was introduced by the MPAA in September in hopes of ridding the rating system of the stigma of the X rating, which was generally regarded as synonymous with pornography. The new rating was copyrighted by the MPAA so that it could be used only by films that were officially rated and contained adults-only subject matter.
Castell said that Blockbuster Video's decision, made earlier last week, had no connection to a boycott recently begun by the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association and its crusading family-values leader, the Rev. Donald Wildmon.
Castell said that Blockbuster had received "less than a thousand" pre-printed postcards from members of Wildmon's group that said they would "take their business to another video store until you stop carrying NC-17." But after phoning some senders of the cards, Castell said, "we found that most came from people who don't do business with us anyway."
Castell said that the campaign may have been started because when such adult-themed movies as "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover," and "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" were released unrated last summer, Blockbuster carried them under its "YRV" (youth restricted viewing) label. But he said both of those films subsequently received NC-17 ratings from the MPAA.
Wildmon last week called off the anti-Blockbuster campaign upon hearing of the chain's decision. Reached at his Tupelo office, Wildmon dismissed a question about whether or not the boycott had any impact. "The only thing that really matters is that they stop stocking NC-17 movies," Wildmon said.