Saturday, February 25, 2017

Should There Be a Market for Censored Movies?

Yes, you read the title correctly. Did you know that there are millions of people who would pay good money to watch movies and TV shows that have been edited for content?

Most of you will probably ask, "Why would anyone want to do that?" Let's go ahead and get this out of the way.

Say you want to show your kids this great movie, but you can't because of that one nudie scene, or the 100 F-bombs. Without censorship, you're out of luck. If only that one scene could be omitted or the F-bombs bleeped out! Would the movie be just as good with the nudie scene and cussing removed? In most cases, the answer is, "Yes."

Enter in the Mormon entrepreneurs. If ever there were a perfect target market for this magical censoring service, it would be the great state of Utah, where Mormons are taught to shy away from nudie scenes, cussing, and other things that bring on the "R" rating. Provide these millions of people the means to watch these cleaned-up movies, and they will pay money that Hollywood would likewise never see.

Censoring movies for TV and airplane family viewing is nothing new, but beyond that, there appears to be a dearth of censoring services. There's a reason for this, which I'll come to in a moment.

First, check out this commercial for VidAngel, the most recent attempt to bring voluntary censored streaming.

Here's how it worked (yeah -- past tense -- I'm getting there). These Mormon guys hired people to watch movies and TV shows to flag anything that might be considered offensive to anyone. Much like this famous scene from "Cinema Paradiso."

With each instance marked, a family can then choose at home what to filter out, and what to let through. For example, they could choose to let in nudie scenes, but bleep out the curse words. VidAngel has even enabled the ability to filter out Jar Jar Binks from the first three Star Wars movies!

Once the filters are in place, the movie will then stream with the "bad" stuff taken out. It works pretty well. I watched the latest "Mad Max" with my two boys with both curse words and nudie scenes taken out. It only removed less than a minute from the run time, and there evidently weren't very many curse words. We had a good laugh, though, when Max uttered a bad word and the soundtrack went silent.

But wait. Why the past tense, again? Because there's evidently an issue.

Directors and producers hate others censoring their art works. How would we like it if someone smeared brown paint all over the Mona Lisa?

But then again, who's suggesting that we censor the original product? I can download a picture of the Mona Lisa and do whatever I want with it using the Paint app, but none of my actions affect the original.

So, for the past couple of decades, different companies have tried to find ways to offer filtered movies, and each time they are shut down. The Family Home Movie Act of 2005 provides for the legal right for a company to alter a DVD for the purposes of presenting a censored version, but where can one go to enjoy this service?

Watch this video for an explanation of the current lawsuit against VidAngel (which is entertainingly narrated by Studio-C's own Matt Meese):

Now that you're caught up with the happenings in this market that you've probably never heard of before, you are sufficiently armed to enter the discussion. What do you think? Should this market exist? Is VidAngel in the wrong?

I personally enjoy the option of being able to filter out stuff that I don't want to see. Being able to edit out one or two scenes in order to enjoy the whole movie is very attractive to Mormons and other conservatively-inclined families. In other words, there definitely is a market.

For example, in November 2016, VidAngel offered a limited IPO and raised over $10 million dollars. VidAngel claims to have enough funds to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court.

To me it seems a no-brainer. Why miss out on this pool of money waiting for the taking? Let the Mormons censor their own copies of movies they buy. It would only be more money for the directors and producers.

Currently, VidAngel is under an injunction that practically puts them out of business until the case is settled.

If you feel so inclined to stand up for this right, you can go here for more details, sign the petition, and even donate to the cause:

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