Simultaneous screening for cut and uncut versions of a film

SINGAPORE - From today, film buffs need no longer be frustrated by distributors cutting a film with mature content so that it can reach the widest possible audience.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) is introducing a Simultaneous Rating System for films, which means that viewers no longer have to endure a frustrating wait as multiple versions of a film can be screened concurrently.

When Lee Ang's sexy spy thriller Lust, Caution was first released in October 2007, audiences were presented with a shortened NC16 version. It took another month before the uncut R21 version was shown in cinemas.

Back then, under the Sequential Dual Rating System, film distributors could show differently rated versions of a film, but they could screen a second version of the film under a new rating only at least a week after the film's first run had ended.

Moviegoers and industry players alike welcome the change to a simultaneous rating system.

Ms Sharon Teo, 37, who works in a bank, called it a "wonderful idea" and added: "Why should one hold back one version?"

A spokesman for distributor and exhibitor Golden Village noted that previously, with a delay in the release of a second version, "the want-to-watch factor is diminished". She added: "With a simultaneous rating system, you can maximise your marketing efforts for the film in the initial period of its release."

As for reducing the possibility of audiences being confused, Ms Dorothy Ding, acquisition and distribution manager for Cathay, said that one way would be to separate different versions by physical location.

MDA said in a statement that the simultaneous rating change was made in response to industry feedback. It is one of two initiatives for the film and video sectors "to help businesses lower their operating costs and shorten their time-to-market".

Also from today, MDA is waiving security deposits of up to $30,000 per licence for film and video distribution and exhibition licensees with a good track record and in operation for more than one year.

The security deposit was levied to ensure that licensees toed the line with regard to regulations on, among other things, the sale and marketing of restricted rating videos.

With the initiative kicking in, MDA will be disbursing security refunds amounting to $7.745 million to more than 300 qualifying film and video licensees.

The waiving of the security deposit was also welcomed by some distributors, such as InnoForm Media. Its senior vice-president, Asia Pacific, Ms Cindy Ng, said: "It's a great move that we totally appreciate."

She added that it can help to defray some of the costs for InnoForm when it differentiates its video products by bundling them with goodies and giveaways.

Still, it does not change the fact that competition remains fierce.

Video distributor Simply Fun pointed out that the bigger challenge faced by them is the easy availability of films online.

Its spokesman hopes that the Government can step in to block illegal websites. She said: "The video market is really in a bad shape. We can sell only 100 to 200 copies for new releases, and the minimum number for printing is 1,000 copies. We cannot even cover our manufacturing costs."

bchan@sph.com.sg

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