The greatest promise of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Streetis that it's not like other musicals. After all, the film is about a homicidal barber (played by Johnny Depp) and it is expected to have lots of violence and gore. It's no Sound of Music or Mary Poppins, that's for sure. But a rumor going around yesterday claimed Warner Bros. wants it to be more like those other family friendly kinds of musicals. After screening a cut of the film, during which WB execs were reportedly a tad squeamish, the studio had supposedly ordered a tamer, "PG-13" version. This was all according to The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid. Even if this were true, though, Warners is only the film's overseas distributor (co-producer Paramount/DreamWorks has domestic). So, the call for a cut would probably only be for the British market, which has always had more problems with violence than the U.S. Right now, the film is looking at a British rating of 18, and the studio reportedly wanted it down to a 15 (in case you can't tell, the UK ratings refer to the age allowed to see the film). For some reason, American media translated this to be the same as R and PG-13, which it isn't; British and U.S. ratings are decided by different groups and are based on different criteria.
Anyway, Variety's Anne Thompson got the real story from DreamWorks on Sunday night. The studio stated its intention has always been to release Sweeney Todd with an R rating. Then, on Monday, Thompson added that neither Paramount/DreamWorks nor Warner Bros. has seen the finished film, that they won't see it until at least the third week in September. It is possible that Warners has seen a lot of clips, some of which are rumored to be making a debut at the Venice Film Festival. By Monday evening, Variety had an article confirming that Paramount/DreamWorks is going wider with its domestic release of the film than originally planned. Instead of opening with a limited run on December 21 then going wide on January 11, Sweeney Todd will now bow on more than 1,500 screens on December 21. Apparently the studio is very happy with what it has seen of the film and thinks it has a very wide appeal, even with the fully intentioned R rating. This has to make Burton and producer Richard Zanuck happy; they didn't want the public to think it is too artsy, which could be assumed with a limited, Oscar-run type of opening.