Last weekend The Batman hit cinemas worldwide, introducing audiences to a new iteration of the Dark Knight. The movie – directed by Matt Reeves – is set during the second year of Batman’s crusade on crime, and stars Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, and Colin Farrell.
When the movie arrived in cinemas in the US, The Batman carried a ‘PG-13’ rating, which informed the audience that some material might be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. However, in the UK, The Batman was awarded a ‘15’ certificate, meaning the film was deemed unsuitable for those under 15.
Because of the way the UK film classification system works, if a film is awarded a ‘15’ certificate it means no one under the age of 15 can attend a screening. Unlike a ’12A’ in the UK, which means those under the age of 12 can attend a screening, so long as they are ‘accompanied’ by an adult (hence the ‘A’ in the rating), no one can attend a ‘15’ certificate film unless they meet the age requirement.
From going to a screening of The Batman last week, I can tell you that UK cinemas are asking younger audience members to bring a form of identification with them, to prove their age. If they don’t look old enough for the screening, they will need to show ID to get into the movie – no exceptions.
Well, that is unless they live in Belfast and attend a screening with their parents. Why? Because Belfast City Council has taken the decision to alter the age classification for The Batman, to allow children to watch the movie.
Despite the movie carrying a ‘15’ certificate in every location throughout the UK, cinemas in Belfast are now the exception, after the local council gave the movie a ’15A’ certificate. Similar to the ‘12A’, this means children below the age of 15 can view the film in a Belfast cinema, so long as they are accompanied by an adult.
The decision to go against the grain, and alter The Batman’s age certification was suggested back in February, when a local cinema chain in Belfast brought the proposal to the Belfast City Council’s Licensing Committee. They suggested the rating be reduced, to allow more customers into screenings, but at the time the idea was quashed.
Fast-forward a few weeks later to the then imminent arrival of The Batman, and the proposal was given further consideration, after being taken to a full council meeting by Sinn Féin councillor, Arder Carson. According to the BBC, Councillor Arden said: “My Batphone has been ringing off the hook for these last two weeks with people asking me what in the sweet name of Gotham City is going on in that licensing committee.”
He added: “Given what is going on in the world and the last two years of lockdowns and restrictions, this seems like a small potato to us, yet it is such a big deal to hundreds, if not thousands, of young people. I think we need to trust our parents.”
So, with that, the idea of altering the age rating was put to a vote and a decision was made to change The Batman from a ‘15’ certificate to a ‘15A’. However, this is would be for Belfast only, and nowhere else across the UK.
If you live in Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, or Cardiff, then I’m sorry, but The Batman is still a ‘15’. This is also the same for every major town or city playing the movie right now.
Now, this isn’t the first time a movie has changed classifications after being awarded a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), but it is a rare occurrence. As a general rule of thumb, local councils stick to the ratings set out by the BBFC, and the cinemas follow suit.
But in this particular case, Belfast City Council felt that altering the rating would be beneficial to the local community and the local economy, especially in light of recent hardships and difficulties. It is unlikely they will be making such decisions on many other movies, and presumably future Batman movies will also be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Age ratings are placed on films to guide audiences (and parents) on what is or isn’t suitable, and are almost always adhered to. The BBFC is a trusted body, and it is unusual for the guidance not to be followed.
According to the BBC, despite the pushback in Belfast, the BBFC is not looking to alter the ‘15’ age certificate as a result of this decision over The Batman. For now, the organisation is quite clear that material in ‘15’ rated films is deemed unsuitable for audiences below that age, regardless of whether a parent or guardian is in attendance.
Thank you for stopping by I’ll Get Drive-Thru to read this post about The Batman. For more Batman-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.