By Rosemary Pollock
BYU's Varsity Theater Closes After Editing Disallowed
PROVO, UTAH -- For the first time in 37 years, Brigham Young
University's Varsity Theater will dim its lights, close its curtain
and take its final bow. The formerly filled-to-capacity campus movie
house reveled in packed houses for shows such as the 1964, "Don't Go
Near the Water." Long lines of class-skipping students, who wanted to
nab up tickets for the night's feature film, have been replaced by
slow ticket sales and a combination of potential lawsuits, charges of
censorship and claims of violations of artistic expression over films
that were edited for content.
"Since we stopped showing edited movies, the interest level dropped,"
said Jerry Bishop, director of BYU's student center. The campus
theater, which probably screened more airline versions of blockbuster
films than TWA, was eventually required by BYU to cover costs with
its own revenue.
A 1998 decision to stop showing movies that had been edited for
content caused the theater to run cinematic classics and current G,
PG and some PG-13-rated movies. BYU's no-edit policy was issued
immediately after American Fork's Towne Cinemas snipped two racy
scenes from the Academy Award-winning "Titanic" and was quickly
threatened with legal action by the movie's studio.
"Sony Pictures asked BYU to stop editing its films," said Carri P.
Jenkins, BYU spokeswoman. "BYU complied and yanked the studio's films
from the coming-attraction list," she said. The University then
sought approval from Sony and other film companies to continue
editing movies for audiences at the school, which is owned by The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which urges its members
to avoid films with excessive violence, profanity and sexual content.
"We couldn't get a formal agreement with them," Jenkins said. "So, we
felt uncomfortable continuing to edit the films." When BYU asked
Stephen Spielberg for approval to edit sections of "Schindler's
List," the Oscar-winning epic about the Holocaust, critics nationwide
gave the school bad reviews.
LDS businessman Ray Lines' CleanFlicks video store is also offering
edited versions of most of today's popular films. With Utah's
population of approximately 70 percent Mormon, it may seem like a
perfect solution to a well-recognized problem. However, some legal
experts and entertainment lawyers view Lines' activities as illegal,
citing violation of copyright and trademark laws.
"There's a concern we're going to board it up," Jenkins said. "We're
not. We certainly need the space." There are plans to make the
theater a lecture hall, but BYU officials would also like it to be
used for concerts, talent and comedy shows. There may be a
disagreement about the legalities of editing but there is no argument
that many people, not just Mormons, like to watch movies without so
much violence, sex and profanity. After all, Hollywood regularly
provides edited versions of many popular movies for the airlines and
broadcast network television.
Y theater takes its final bow
Deseret News 3Sep01 D3
By Jeffrey P. Haney: Deseret News staff writer
BYU Movie Theater Closes After It Stops Editing Films
Salt Lake Tribune 4Sep01 D3
The Associated Press
CleanFlicks' Editing Reviewed in RedHerring