EXHIBITION AND DISTRIBUTION
Central to decisions on the regulation and censorship of film are questions of audience suitability and maturity. Domestic reception of film has raised concerns over unregulated consumption, with video and television versions of films receiving greater censorship. But in one famous case, a film that had been made specifically for British television, Peter Watkins's The War Game (1965), was banned from being shown on the BBC following government intervention. Made to mark the twentieth anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, this drama-documentary depicting the horrors of a nuclear attack on Britain was withdrawn, as the government said it contained "inaccuracies." The struggle to have this important political film seen by the public began with a limited theatrical release at London's National Film Theatre in 1966. With an "X" certificate and cinema chains refusing to exhibit the film, its national release was mainly through church and community halls, where it was booked as an educational screening by groups opposed to nuclear weapons such as CND and the Quakers. Despite The War Game 's winning of an Academy Award ® for Best Documentary in 1967, the BBC refused to lift its ban on the film until 1985.
Historically, the BBFC had refused to classify political films, waiting until 1954 to grant an "X" certificate to Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film, Bronenosets Potyomkin ( Battleship Potemkin ). It had banned the film in 1926 famously declaring that cinema "is no place for politics." The recently introduced "X" certificate was designed to allow many of the foreign films of directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonioni to be passed uncut. The censor was now prepared to view this new world cinema as art cinema, to take into account the film's artistic intentions and the maturity of its probable audience. The view of the BBFC was that a foreign film shown only in art cinemas and by a smaller audience was "less likely to produce criticism." Such a view allowed Vittorio De Sica's La Ciociara ( Two Women , 1960), with its depiction of a double rape, to be passed uncut, though when the film went on general release and was shown to a wider audience, the scene was removed.
As an extreme example of controlled distribution, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971)—a film that had been banned in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Nova Scotia, among other places—had been passed uncut by the BBFC but was unavailable for screening or broadcast in the United Kingdom for more than twenty-five years, after Kubrick requested that Warner Bros. withdraw all prints from circulation. British newspapers had begun reporting cases of copycat acts of violence, in which juveniles were apparently inspired by the content of the film; it was rumoured that Kubrick began receiving death threats, and in 1973 the film was withdrawn. Its removal was heavily enforced by lawyers, which resulted in the successful prosecution of the Scala, a cinema that dared to present a screening in 1992, and an injunction (later lifted) on British television's Channel 4 to prevent it from showing twelve extracts from the film in 1993. The film was released again in the United Kingdom only following Kubrick's death in 1999.
The cult that grew around A Clockwork Orange made the poster for the film an iconic image. Other posters and advertising material for films have been denied exposure, and though replacement images are found, the cultural impact of the movie is adjusted. In the United Kingdom, one of the most powerful poster-regulating authorities is London Transport, which owns the advertising sites on the underground and key billboards on its aboveground properties. In 1959 it banned a poster for a double bill of The Alligator People and Return of the Fly , for fear that it would frighten children who would be in central London in large numbers for Christmas shopping; in 1989 it removed part of a poster for Peter Jackson's film Bad Taste , which featured an alien with its middle finger raised, that was deemed offensive; and in 1994 it filled in a gap in the split skirt of Demi Moore displayed in the advertising for Disclosure , which it considered erotically charged.