Screening of Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' Violates MPAA Ratings Rules (Exclusive)

The House That Jack Built Still - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

IFC Films is facing sanctions for failing to secure an appropriate waiver before hosting Wednesday night's special showings of an unrated, director's cut of the gruesome film.

Lars von Trier is nothing if not controversial. In the latest twist, IFC Films is facing sanctions by the MPAA movie ratings board for screening an unrated director's cut of his new film The House That Jack Built on Wednesday night without getting the appropriate waiver.

The unrated version is playing for one night only in select theaters in more than 100 cities across the country. On Dec. 14, an R-rated version of the movie — about a serial killer who mutilates his victims, including women and children — will debut day-and-date in a smattering of cinemas and on digital platforms.

"The MPAA has communicated to the distributor, IFC Films, that the screening of an unrated version of the film in such close proximity to the release of the rated version — without obtaining a waiver — is in violation of the rating system's rules," the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "The effectiveness of the MPAA ratings depends on our ability to maintain the trust and confidence of American parents. That's why the rules clearly outline the proper use of the ratings. Failure to comply with the rules can create confusion among parents and undermine the rating system — and may result in the imposition of sanctions against the film's submitter."

Sanctions will be determined after a hearing of the Classification and Ratings Administration, which administers the ratings on behalf of the MPAA and National Association of Theatre Owners.

Possible sanctions include revoking the official R rating, or worse, suspending the ratings process for any other IFC Films currently before CARA. IFC could also be suspended from participating in the ratings system entirely for no more than 90 days, according to CARA rules.

IFC Films responded to the controversy on Friday, issuing a statement saying that no one had received a "written notice" about any MPAA-related sanctions. "It has always been IFC Films’ priority to maintain the artistic vision of our filmmakers and we do not believe that the one day screening of the Director’s Cut unrated version has violated the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Rules," the statement continued. 

IFC Films acquired U.S. rights to The House That Jack Built out of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where a screening of the bloody movie, starring Matt Dillon, prompted walkouts and groans. Von Trier was allowed to return to the marquee fest this year after being banned for seven years because of jokes he made about Hitler.

"Ostensibly a probing portrait of a serial killer in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, the movie also is quite literally a descent into hell. But its true raison d'etre is as a masturbatory dialectic about art and creation in which visual nods to Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Stalin and Idi Amin give way to images lifted from across the Danish director's entire body of work," THR's David Rooney wrote in his review of the pic.

On Thursday, IFC reported that the special showings in 140 theaters grossed $172,131 for a screen average of roughly $1,230.

Nov. 29, 2 p.m.: Updated with grosses.

Nov. 30, 10 a.m.: Updated with IFC Films' statement.