FILM distributors are alarmed by new laws that quietly came into effect in South Australia this week restricting the promotion and display of R-rated movies.
Adults aged over 18 seeking to buy or borrow a copy of Mad Max, the acclaimed desert war drama Three Kings, starring George Clooney, the Brad Pitt classic Fight Club or the 2009 Blu Ray release of Sasha Baron Cohen’s fashion parody Bruno will now find them in plain packaging displaying nothing more than the film’s title.
The rule will apply to titles for sale or rent unless those titles are quarantined from all other audiovisual materials, in an area signposted with a warning.
Under changes to the state’s classification act, which came into effect on Sunday, businesses will face fines of up to $5000 for displaying a “poster, pamphlet or other printed material” for films classified R18+.
The new law applies to general outlets containing films with classifications lower than R18+, and not adult-only premises.
Several distributors expressed surprise at the announcement of the law coming into effect, saying they had learned of it only yesterday. Potential Films managing director Mark Spratt, who has distributed numerous R-rated titles, including the contentious French drama Romance, said he was “gobsmacked”.
“It’s gone completely under the radar,” Mr Spratt said.
Plain packaging would prevent consumers making informed decisions about these films, including critically acclaimed titles such as Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now, he said.
“It’s certainly discouraging people to look for these films, discouraging shops from stocking them and (creates) an extra hassle for (distributors),” Mr Spratt said. It also had the potential to harm retailers in South Australia as consumers who wanted to buy the titles with their packaging intact would shop interstate or online.
The law was announced by the office of South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, whose conservative campaigning is well known to the film industry.
Foyer stands and posters, cinema ads and billboards for R-rated films are unaffected.