The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has revealed plans to change the existing 12-certificate to a new 'advisory' category, bringing the territory into line with the rest of Europe and the US.
Coinciding with the current media attention on cuts made to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in order to qualify for a British 12 rating, the BBFC has acknowledged that while these cuts were justified, there is now a need to review the long-standing classification system.
The decision follows a relaxation in the rules governing British video classification earlier this year, allowing more explicit material to be made available to the adult market.
Following the requirement of Paramount and UIP to trim violent scenes featuring head butts and throat chops in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, as well as the insistence of the BBFC to tone down the glamorisation of knives (a growing trend in youth crime in the UK), a decision to review the long-standing certification rules for older children's films has met with approval from the film industry.
Current British law could enforce the closure of cinemas allowing underage children, even if accompanied by their parents, access to older certificate films.
The late Princess Diana attracted controversy when she took an under-age Prince Harry to see the 15-certificate film The Devil's Own, and the London cinema involved was threatened with prosecution under the 1985 Cinemas Act.
In addition, the new proposals, changing the mandatory under-12 age restriction to an advisory category, similar to the US PG-13 rating, would benefit the belaboured UK cinema market which is struggling to avoid a similar meltdown to that experienced in the US.
The resulting increase in audience numbers would have benefited such films as Charlie's Angels and Mission: Impossible 2, which opted to forego required cuts and retain a 15 certificate.