By: Jenny Uechi 

Originally Published: Vancouver Observer blog Mar 23, 2012

A "money grab" -- that's how Festival Cinemas president and Vancouver International Film Festival founder Leonard Schein sees a last-minute call by Consumer Protection BC to shut down a charity film screening scheduled for Saturday March 24th.

Festival Cinemas' is scheduled to screen The 400 Blows (1959),a classic film by French director François Truffaut, Saturday March 24th at 10 a.m. at Fifth Avenue Cinemas. The screening is part of Festival Cinemas'  See Again: Conversations about Masterpieces of Cinema film series. The name "See Again" has an intriguing double-meaning: the series, hosted by historian and educator Peter Glassman, will allow audiences to see movies from the past, and also help people "see again" by donating proceeds to Seva Canada, a charity that restores eyesight and helps prevent blindness in developing countries. Several more screenings of classic films -- including Some Like it Hot and Out of Africa are scheduled for upcoming weeks (all on Saturdays at 10 a.m.), with proceeds going to Seva. The screening for next Saturday is My Brilliant Career (1979), an Australian film about female independence in the early 20th century.

On Thursday March 22nd -- two days before the screening  -- Schein received a letter from Consumer Protection BC prohibiting the screening of The 400 Blows and My Brilliant Career until the films are re-classified.

"They (Consumer Protection BC) just want money," said Schein. "There's no reason to re-classify an old film unless a distributor wants a lower rating, but you can't get a lower rating than General. It's extremely unreasonable to re-classify a general black-and-white subtitled film from 1960."

The film, The 400 Blows, contains no sex or violence, and has been approved for a general audience. Re-classification, Schein said, would cost the theatre hundreds of dollars: $2 per minute in the film, according to Consumer Protection BC.

As Schein sees it, the film was already given a "General" rating back when it was first released: why would it have to be re-classified it with the same rating?

"If a film was once approved, it does not necessarily mean that its approval will remain valid in perpetuity," wrote Consumer Protection BC Motions Pictures director Steven Pelton.

He said that under the Motion Picture Act, approval for any film is exclusive to the licensed distributor who submitted that film, and that this requires a distributor or person screening the film to ensure that they have an Consumer Protection BC-approved copy of the film.

Would that mean that the Festival Cinemas film screenings, which gives proceeds to Seva Canada, will have to be canceled?

"Whether a theatre donates ticket sale proceeds to a charity is up to them," Pelton wrote.  "It does not remove the classification requirements under the Act."

Schein said Fifth Avenue Cinemas will go forward with the screening on Saturday at 10 a.m.

"Our position is that we will show it. Other than police or a court order to stop it, we intend to show the film."

Asked if other theatres have been affected, Schein said that some theatres, such as the Rio, have recently had to comply with the re-classification procedures.

"They've given in to this blackmail," he said. "But I think someone's got to take a stand against these bureaucrats. We hope that the provincial government will get rid of this red tape, because there's no rational reason these films shouldn't be allowed to be screened."

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