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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kenwood (Local Democracy Reporter)

Belfast City Council overturns decision on Batman ban

Belfast City Council has reversed a decision refusing under 15’s to see The Batman in Belfast cinemas.

At the full council meeting on Tuesday (March 1), elected representatives decided to overturn a council Licensing Committee decision and the British Board of Film Classification’s 15 rating for the film, to allow new 15A classification on the film.

The unprecedented decision makes the movie the first to receive the classification in Northern Ireland, and will allow parents to bring children under 15 years to see the film. The UK currently has no such widespread classification, but the Republic of Ireland does. The Batman opens in the UK on March 3.

BBFC Representative Edward Lamberti told the committee last month The Batman was “a stronger, tougher, bleaker movie than is typically the case with a superhero film.”

At the same meeting Michael McAdam, managing director of the Movie House chain in Northern Ireland, made the request for the new 15A. At the committee some DUP members, the UUP, the PUP, Alliance and the Greens voted against the changing of the classification.

However, at this week’s full council a further Sinn Fein proposal to allow under 15’s for the film received full support across the chamber.

In a light hearted address, Sinn Fein Councillor Arder Carson said:

“Like most of us, I have two phones, I have a council phone, which is always very busy, and a Batphone, for when I need it. And let me tell you that phone has been off the hook this last two weeks, asking me what in the sweet name of Gotham City is going on in that Licensing Committee.”

He said the council had the legal right to change the certification, and added:

“It’s ours to do, given the will. Given what is going on in the world, and the last two years of lockdowns and restrictions, this seems a fairly small potato to us. Yet it is a big deal to hundreds, if not thousands of young people.”

He said: “I’m not looking to influence opinion, but last night I had a phone call from the Mayor of Gotham City, who told me if our Ard-Mhéara, our current Lord Mayor, and myself, Nuala, Danny, Frank, Brian and Jim, as former mayors, don’t sort this out, then the Gotham City sister deal is off the table.”

He added: “My point is that there is a significant lobby of opinion in the cinema industry in relation to change for these certifications, with over 90 percent looking for the introduction of a 15A certificate.

“An hour down the road, the 15A already applies, so if our young people had the resources they would probably take that option. In America, it’s a PG13, and of course it will be available on a host of streaming services, without any parental oversight whatsoever.

“So for me, we need to trust our parents and our guardians to make the right call for their teenagers, and create an opportunity for that sharted social experience that cinema offers, and has been missed over the last two years.”

He said: “If this is passed it enables young people, and their parents and guardians to have a conversation about the ethical, moral and even social dilemmas the film content presents, and that surely at a minimum, has to be a good thing, in the development of our young people’s moral compass.”


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