Entertainment

New Alberta film bill creates movie czar, inspectors

Cinema owners and movie distributors in Alberta are upset over the province's Bill 18, which would create a team of theatre inspectors and a new movie czar with indisputable authority.

Cinema owners and movie distributors in Alberta are upset over the province's Bill 18, which would create a team of theatre inspectors and a new movie czar with indisputable authority.

The Film and Video Classification Act has already been passed in the legislature and just needs a proclamation to become law.

Bill 18 creates a new film czar position with the authority to reclassify films. It also puts new limits on children's attendance at movies.

In addition, the government will be able to hire inspectors who can, without warrant, check out movie houses and video stores and oblige owners to hand over films and any documents associated with the films.

"It has given [the government] options to go in any particular direction should they ever choose to do so, which gives me some cause for concern because, up until now, we knew the rules of the road," said Neil Campbell, a director with the Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association and an executive with Landmark Cinemas in Calgary.

"But right now that depends on the whim of the government."

Children under 14 barred from 18A-rated movies

The film czar, a post the bill will create, could classify or reclassify films with no legislated appeal process.

Films shown in theatres in the province are currently rated by a panel of the Alberta Film Commission, while those on video and DVD are graded by a countrywide average of provincial ratings.

Campbell said he wants more details about the new regime, especially in terms of the inspectors.

"What are they going to come in and look for?" he asked.

There are also changes to the 18A category. Children are usually permitted to see an 18A movie, such as American Pie or Sex and the City, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. But under the new bill, anyone under 14 cannot see an 18A movie.

That means movie staff will have to make sure audience members are 14 and older and children that young don't carry photo identification.

Any individual — the theatre employee, not the moviegoer — who breaks the rules will be subject to a maximum fine of $10,000, which may include a jail term of up to two years less a day. A corporation will be liable for as much as $100,000.

The bill has no scale for fines nor an appeals process.

"The fines are totally out of the realm of responsible," said Campbell, adding he's been reassured by Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett that the government will be working with industry to develop specific regulations.

With files from the Associated Press

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