'Blue Is the Warmest Color' Opens Doors to Teens at One NYC Theater

IFC Center in Greenwich Village says the coming-of-age film is appropriate for high school-aged audiences, despite its NC-17 rating.

Kids grow up fast in New York, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Now that notion is being put to the test by IFC Center, an arthouse cinema in Greenwich Village that is allowing curious moviegoers under the age of 17 to see Blue Is the Warmest Color -- this despite its NC-17 rating.

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The Palme d'Or-winner was given the MPAA's most restrictive label for "explicit sexual content," the trade association's website reads, between the two young lesbians at the center of its coming-of-age story. As reported by the New York Times, however, IFC Center, which falls under the same corporate umbrella as Sundance Selects, the film's distributor, will not turn away curious minors, within reason.

"It is our judgment that it is not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds," said senior vice president and general manager John Vanco in a statement.

The film, from director Abdellatif Kechiche, contains 15 minutes of simulated and graphic sex between stars Adele Exarchopouos and Lea Seydoux, hard-to-shoot material that has since been the source of a growing rift between the filmmaker and his stars.

So hard-core are the film's erotic scenes that 2,500 miles away from IFC Center, another arthouse cinema, Flicks Theatre in Boise, Idaho, has announced that they will not be screening the film. ("It isn't because we're prudes," its owner tells The Hollywood Reporter, but rather because the theater's liquor license prohibits it from showing films featuring "acts of simulated acts of sexual intercourse." Steve McQueen's Shame earned a similar fate.)

MPAA ratings, which gauge the suitability of a film's themes and content for certain audiences, are not enforceable by law, but rather are guidelines adhered to by participating members of the National Association of Theatre Owners.

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Since theater and distributor in this case are owned by the same company, and no studio intermediary looking to protect its interests will step in to intervene, the MPAA has no recourse. 

Meanwhile, the stance continues to grab headlines and provoke yet further discussion about the film's artistic merits and what constitutes its intended and appropriate audience. For IFC, it all adds up to a win-win.

Blue Is the Warmest Color debuts stateside on Friday on four screens in New York and Los Angeles.