Self-Regulation vs State Regulation: Evidence from Cinema Age Restrictions


We study the effect of self-regulation on the leniency of cinema age restrictions using cross-country variation in the ratings applied to 1,810 movies released between 2000 and 2011. While ratings in most countries are determined by government regulators, ratings in six countries are issued by agencies created and operated by the film industry. We show that these self-regulatory organizations issue more lenient ratings to movies with strong teenage appeal, which we demonstrate are most affected by restrictions. Under self-regulation, movies with high teenage appeal are available to audiences 2.6 months younger on average, compared to movies with low teenage appeal.