Check the Box to Decide if a Film Is Right for Your Family

For over 40 years, the Motion Picture Association of America has been committed to helping parents make the best possible viewing choices for their children. We have met that commitment through our film rating system, which provides information on the content of a given film and equips parents with the tools to decide what is appropriate for their children to watch.

The film rating system is not a perfect one, but as a parent myself, I think we get our ratings right more often than not. Like any good system that endures, it is built to evolve and as an organization we are constantly working to improve it. Over the years we have made enhancements, such as the unique rating descriptors created in 1990 for movies rated PG or higher. The descriptor gives parents a snapshot of the content in a particular movie that leads to its rating. Our internal research shows that most parents throughout the country think that these are extremely helpful in providing guidance, but some are not aware we include this information with our rating at all, and we want to do a better job of highlighting them.

That's why during my remarks Tuesday at CinemaCon, the annual convention of movie-theater owners in Las Vegas, we unveiled a new campaign focused on these descriptors, with the overall goal of providing America's parents with the clearest view about the content of our films. This new "Check the Box" campaign is just the latest in a series of efforts by our industry to put parents in the driver's seat when it comes to content choices for their families.

As part of the "Check the Box" campaign, we have created educational materials -- including a new PSA and movie posters -- that will be shown and displayed in theaters around the country in the coming weeks. The Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) has also updated the design of the ratings boxes to emphasize the descriptors, and improved the trailer tag to provide more clear detail for audiences that the trailer they are watching is approved to play with the feature they came to see. These efforts by CARA are not a change in the way they rate movies or approve trailers, but rather a clearer, more accurate way to present both the rating and the trailer approval process. To help make the descriptors more ubiquitous, CARA Chairman Joan Graves has sent a letter to film critics encouraging them to include not only a film's rating but its descriptor as well when they're reviewing a film. Finally, we have redesigned and revamped the ratings system website so parents are able to learn about the system and resources available to them in one place, and have established a twitter feed, @FilmRatings, to keep parents informed on the latest ratings for upcoming films.

None of this would have been possible without the help and support of our friends at the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), especially their President John Fithian, who have always been steadfast partners in our joint mission to provide clear, accurate, and helpful information to parents. I am confident that, with the help of our friends at NATO, this renewed emphasis on our ratings descriptors will be to the benefit of families across the country. So the next time you're planning to go to the movies with your children, "Check the Box" and decide if it's the right film for your family.