The Green Sheet and Opposition to American Motion Picture Classification in the 1960s
University of Kansas
Film & Media Studies
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The Green Sheet was a bulletin created by the Film Estimate Board of National Organizations, and featured the composite movie ratings of its ten member organizations, largely Protestant and represented by women. Between 1933 and 1969, the Green Sheet was offered as a service to civic, educational, and religious centers informing patrons which motion pictures contained potentially offensive and prurient content for younger viewers and families. When the Motion Picture Association of America began underwriting its costs of publication, the Green Sheet was used as a bartering device by the film industry to root out municipal censorship boards and legislative bills mandating state classification measures. The Green Sheet underscored tensions between film industry executives such as Eric Johnston and Jack Valenti, movie theater owners, politicians, and patrons demanding more integrity in monitoring changing film content in the rapidly progressive era of the 1960s. Using a system of symbolic advisory ratings, the Green Sheet set an early precedent for the age-based types of ratings the motion picture industry would adopt in its own rating system of 1968. Through the publication of its own reviews, it provides a glimpse into how the member organizations evaluating film content justified their designated ratings and conclusions. Largely ignored by historians of the Production Code and the ratings reforms of 1968, the Green Sheet is an instrumental part of the corporate history and makeup of the American film industry, particularly in motion picture exhibition. It provided a crucial intersection between Protestant groups, film distributors and exhibitors, and MPAA leaders eager to demonstrate their personal responsibility to ward off threats of classification. Its unclear enforcement and ambiguous advocation underlies many of the core problems and criticisms that motion picture ratings receive today.
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