If you ask the studio that made it, they'll say they own it. When you buy a video, you're not buying the movie, you're buying limited individual viewing rights to the movie. Right? That's what the FBI warning says.
And I remember the story of the movie theater manager who was so offended by parts of "The Center of the World" that he removed them from the print. As I recall, the Hollywood position is that the theaters do not own the movies, they only rent exhibition rights -- and if they aren't showing the film as shipped from the distributor, they are in violation of their contract. They are not showing the film they're advertising.
Okay. I think I follow this so far.
Then what about Cleanflicks? It's a movie-rental franchise that specializes in family-friendly movies. And if they aren't already, they make 'em so. Yes, they do. They edit the movies they rent, in effect producing a television version.
I don't buy Cleanflicks' spokesman's reasoning that "I own the movie, I can do what I want to it." If the MPAA worked like the RIAA, they'd shut these people down. But the studios have chosen not to challenge this: In fact, the article reports, New Line has released "family-friendly" edits of four films (including "The Mask") for this market.
I'm OK with it if the studios are, I think. As long as there is full disclosure that these versions of the films are edited. And by whom. And why.
Perhaps it is not in their best interests to challenge it: The fact that this can even be done, and leave an understandable story, could indicate just how gratuitous some "adult content" really is. (Check out Cleanflicks' blacklist of films they won't edit. It's rather short.) And although Cleanflicks deals exclusively in VHS tapes, there's no reason a DVD couldn't contain instructions to play a "family-friendly" edit on a player with parental controls turned on. Many filmmakers already produce alternate edits of some scenes in anticipation of the inevitable "broadcast television version": This really isn't that big a leap.
But this scares me:
"I've tried to rent videos and speed past the nudity and violence, but, doggone it, you already saw it and it already affected you," says Mr. Miller. "It's not just an innocent video, it's affecting the way you're going to behave. I'm thrilled that someone is making a monumental step in the right direction."
This sounds like a guy who shouldn't be allowed out of the house.
LATER: Heh. Boing Boing calls their take on this "What Would Jesus Rent?" and provides a link to the Nando Times rather than the original source in the Christian Science Monitor. Since they may know something about link expiration at the CSM that I don't know, now you have both.