Fox Searchlight's US distribution deal with Shame specified that the studio would not re-edit the movie for a lower-rating even though it's almost certainly going to get an NC-17. The movie, which follows the downward spiral of a sex addict
(played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender), features copious sex and nudity with a sprinkling of implied incest.
There are multiple challenges to marketing an NC-17 movie. Most networks won't air promos for an NC-17 film (at least not during primetime), newspapers are wary of buying ads for NC-17 movies, and even theaters aren't eager to show NC-17 movies because
it's adults only. This allows for stupid folks to come out an accuse the theater of not being family friendly.
Actually Shame has been very well received wherever it has been shown on the festival circuit, so Fox will market the film on the strength of good reviews and word of mouth. It has a good start as it picked up awards at the Venice Film Festival for Best
Film and Best Actor.
Shame isn't going to open with a wide release. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 2nd, which means that the studio will only have to rely on newspaper ad buys in those cities. Fox will also put a green-band (suitable for all ages) trailer
The Fox studio co-president Steve Gilula said:
I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner. The sheer talent of the actors and the vision of the filmmaker are extraordinary. It's not a film that everyone will take
easily, but it certainly breaks through the clutter and is distinctive and original. It's a game changer.
Update: MPAA Rating
26th October 2011. See article
Shame has now officially received its NC-17 rating from the MPAA with the comment: for some explicit sexual content.
Update: BBFC Rating
27th October 2011. See article
Meanwhile the BBFC have just published their rating for Shame. It has been passed 18 uncut with the comment:
Contains strong sex and sex references