What are Movie Ratings in Ontario?

What are Movie Ratings in Ontario?
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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For most audiences, choosing from new movies to see at the cinema isn’t only about interest and quality. Film classifications and ratings have a crucial role in telling moviegoers what to expect when they walk into a theatre. It’s more than just saying if something is appropriate; it helps inform viewers what sort of content they might see.

Film ratings have been a necessary and often debated service about how movies are watched since the birth of the art form nearly 140 years ago. Though the system and labels have changed over time, their importance and usefulness are as vital today as they’ve been before.

The systems and ranks vary greatly between countries and even different provinces in Canada. We in Oakville, obviously, use the Ontario rating system, which is enforced and regulated by the Ontario Film Authority (OFA).

It, one of the current releases posing the question about what makes up Ontario’s film ratings.

Questions about the rating system and its specific rules often come up when there are new major releases that may attract interest from young audiences with extreme content. This weekend’s widely advertised and immensely popular It, for example, features children in a franchise horror story.

But how are films classified and rated? And what do they all mean? The province of Ontario has a simple system that most audiences are somewhat familiar with, organized by colour and shape.

The Ontario ratings are listed in 5 categories that classify an increasing level of intensity for a new movie released in the province. Before a movie opens to the public, it must be screened by the OFA, where it is assigned a rating ahead of its first public screening.

You may have seen pictures of these on movie websites or attached to posters before. These are the five levels of film ratings in Ontario, along with their official descriptions according to the Ontario Film Authority:

G – Suitable for all.
The film is suitable for viewers of all ages.
Currently playing: The Emoji Movie, Cars 3.
(This means there is none or almost no questionable content in the film and is appropriate for viewers of any age to see.)

PG – Parental Guidance advised.
Currently playing: Logan Lucky, Dunkirk.
Parental Guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children.
(This means there may be some mild language, humour or mild peril in the film. It’s generally passable, and audiences can decide based on specific information for each movie if it’s appropriate for younger viewers.)

14A – Persons younger than 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Currently playing: The Hitman’s Bodyguard, The Dark Tower.
Suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age and older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. May contain violence, coarse language, and/or sexually suggestive themes.

18A – Persons younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Currently playing: It, Wind River, Girls Trip.
Suitable for viewing by persons 18 years of age and older. Persons under 18 may attend but must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older. May contain explicit violence, frequent coarse language, sexual activity and/or horror.

R – Restricted to persons 18 or older.
Currently playing: None. (The last R-rated film in Oakville was March’s Below Her Mouth.)
Admission restricted to persons 18 years of age and older. Content not suitable for minors. May contain frequent use of sexual activity, brutal/graphic violence, intense horror and/or other disturbing content.

According to the OFA website, “Elements that contribute to the film classification include language, violence, nudity, sexual activity, horror and psychological impact.”

For films rated 14A, 18A and R, admission is checked at all theatres in Ontario and ticket purchases monitored and checked prior to admission into a theatre. At Cineplex chain locations in the province, ratings are now posted publicly at theatre entrances, and staff do monitor and inspect screens before, during, and after presentations.

More information about the Ontario rating systems, you can visit the Ontario Film Authority website here.

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