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TO END PORN STIGMA, X RATING NOW AN EX-RATING

TO END PORN STIGMA, X RATING NOW AN EX-RATING

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The X rating was eliminated Wednesday by the Motion Picture Association of America in favor of a new NC-17 rating that bars children but does not carry the commercial stigma of the X.

Filmmakers hope the new rating, effective immediately, will carry none of the advertising and exhibition restraints that an X rating guaranteed. They maintain that the X rating had become synonymous with hard-core pornography, and served no purpose in evaluating artistic films best suited for adults.The R rating, which bars unaccompanied minors from certain films, remains intact, as does the PG-13, PG and G ratings.

``It's a great step,' said Philip Kaufman, director of the X-rated Universal Pictures film ``Henry & June.' The historical drama, which features some explicit sex, was set for a ratings appeal next week and will be the first recipient of the new NC-17 rating, which stands for no children under 17.

Films now rated X can be resubmitted for the new rating, the MPAA said.

It was unclear whether newspapers and television and radio stations, which tend to reject advertisements for X-rated films, would be more inclined to carry ads for movies bearing the NC-17 mark.

The new rating will be copyrighted, the MPAA said at a New York news conference. The X rating was not and is used widely by the adult movie industry.

Most theater chains refuse to show X-rated films, regardless of artistic merits.

For months, a variety of directors and film producers have sought a change in the ratings system.

Other X-rated films aimed at mainstream moviegoers included ``Hardware,' ``Frankenhooker,' ``Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,' and ``Life is Cheap ... But Toilet Paper is Expensive.'

The announcement marks a significant about-face by the MPAA.

``It's no one's fault, but the X rating has a patina, a complexion which frankly we never intended it to have,' MPAA President Jack Valenti said Wednesday in New York.

Before the announcement, Valenti had been adamant in his defense of the previous system. He said the ratings continued to provide useful guidelines to parents.

Coupled with the new rating, the association also will provide theater owners and critics with more detail on films with an R rating and why exactly they received it: sex, violence, language.

Harvey Weinstein, the co-chairman of Miramax Films, was especially relieved by the decision. Several of Miramax's recent releases have been rated X. They include ``The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover' and ``Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' from Oscar-nominated director Pedro Almodovar.

Older X-rated films have included 1969's ``Midnight Cowboy,' 1973's ``Last Tango in Paris,' 1969's ``if...' and 1971's ``A Clockwork Orange.'

The last time the ratings were changed was in 1984, when the PG-13 rating was added between the PG and R ratings. That change was prompted by ``Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.'

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