Record rise in 12A film ratings despite audience confusion

Jack Reacher Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher film received the most complaints from viewers in 2013

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A record number of films were rated 12A in 2013, despite research suggesting 27% of cinema-goers were unclear about the meaning of the certificate.

A total of 321 movies were given the classification, including The Hunger Games and Gravity, up from 234 in 2012.

The rating means children aged 12 and over can go and see a film unaccompanied, but those under the age of 12 must view the film with an adult.

For the first time, there were more 12A releases than 15-rated films.

The rise, outlined in the British Board of Film Classification's (BBFC) annual report, came despite research showing a "significant minority" of consumers were confused by the rating.

"It's inherently a slightly more complicated explanation than most," BBFC director David Cooke admitted to the BBC.

However, he said the case for retaining the certificate was "very strong" because it allowed parents to make informed decisions about what their children watch.

"Especially at that age, children are developing at different speeds, and therefore their own parents are far better placed than us to judge whether a particular film would give their child too intense an experience or not," he said.

Renewed efforts to explain the 12A certificate will be made this summer with a cinema advertising campaign.

Complaints fall

Reflecting the confusion amongst consumers, the most complained-about film last year was the 12A-rated Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise.

"Despite a number of reductions made to scenes of violence to achieve a 12A certificate, those who contacted us considered the film too violent, dark and sadistic for 12-year-olds, and inappropriately presented the hero as a vigilante figure," said the BBFC.

However, the film only received 26 complaints in total - which Cooke described as "a very low number even by our standards".

"Compared with the number of people who saw it on the opening weekend, which would have been into the millions, it's very small."

Woman In Black The response to Woman In Black was partly responsible for the BBFC changing its guidelines on horror

The figure was indeed a big drop from 2012 - when supernatural thriller The Woman In Black drew the most complaints.

A total of 134 people complained about the Daniel Radcliffe film. The response was partly responsible for the BBFC tightening up its guidelines on horror and gore earlier this year.

Other films that drew complaints last year included action movie The Wolverine and Richard Curtis's romantic comedy About Time, both of which were rated 12A.

Each drew criticism for its use of strong language; while 10 people complained about harrowing scenes of injured people in The Impossible, a film about the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

Fantasy fable Life Of Pi also generated 10 complaints regarding its PG classification from people concerned that children would be disturbed by scenes in which animals attacked each other.

And 12 viewers thought explicit sex scenes in Nicole Kidman's The Paperboy were more deserving of an 18 certificate than the 15 it had been given.

Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines The BBFC is hoping to extend its rating system to music videos like Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines

The figures, released by the BBFC, came against a background of public support for the ratings system.

A poll of 10,000 adults, conducted by the body, showed 92% of film viewers agreed with the age ratings for films and videos they had seen recently.

The BBFC rated 974 films for cinematic release in 2013 - up from 850 last year - and gave pre-release advice on a further 68 titles. The total of 1,042 films is the highest since 1961.

The figures were boosted by the advent of "event cinema" - with operas, ballets and theatre productions all receiving certificates.

In the coming months, the BBFC will also pilot a scheme to apply age ratings to music videos online.

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