By Kent Larsen
Cleaned-Up Video Concept Expands to Southern Utah
CEDAR CITY, UTAH -- The controversial practice of editing videos to remove
objectionable dialogue, sex and violence has expanded to Southern Utah from
Utah's wasatch front, with Play It Clean stores opening earlier this year in
St. George, Utah and this month in Cedar City, Utah. But while the concept
is expanding in popularity, its legal status isn't entirely clear, and the
nascent industry isn't getting any cooperation from Hollywood.
The latest store opening in Cedar City, where Coby and Ashlynn Mitchell have
opened a Play It Clean shop, expanding the chain of stores started by Steve
and JoAnn Moulton, who own stores on the wasatch front as well as the store
in St. George. The Mitchell's use Play It Clean's three editors to remove
the objectionable parts from videos after purchasing them.
Exactly who and were the editors are is a trade secret, says Mitchell,
because the Moultons have competitors on the wasatch front -- Ray Lines'
Clean Flicks in Provo, Clean Cut Videos in Kaysville, owned by Braxton and
Brian Schenk, and probably others.
All of these companies see demand for their services, "People want to see
these films, but they don't want to deal with the extreme violence," says
Mitchell. "It's just like us. We wanted to see "The Green Mile" badly. But,
we didn't want to see the unedited version. We waited so long, but, finally,
we got to see it. It was kind of like being a kid at Christmas who finally
got to open his presents."
That sentiment is echoed by the other owners and by customers throughout
Utah. But the concept's history shows some opposition to the concept from
Hollywood, which is uncomfortable with anyone else editing their products.
But the history also shows various entrepreneurs looking for ways to get
edited videos to the predominantly Mormon audience in Utah while staying legal.
BYU's Varsity Theater was among the first to show edited movies, for years
quietly taking Hollywood movies and removing objectionable words, violence
and sex from the 'second-run' movies it showed. But it wasn't until American
Fork's Towne Cinema started showing an edited version of the first-run movie
Titanic that the concept got widespread attention. Towne Cinema soon had
people from all over Utah's wasatch front traveling to the theater to see
its edited version. The popularity of Towne Cinema's version led to national
publicity, and the film's distributor, Paramount, then pulled Titanic from
the theater and threatened legal action, saying the practice violated the
copyright and trademark laws. Towne Cinema had to stop editing films because
neither Paramount nor any other Hollywood distributor would agree to allow it.
The publicity also led BYU to re-examine its policy, and representatives of
the university also contacted Hollywood distributors seeking permission to
edit films or to get the edited cuts they provide to airlines and to
television. But BYU was also unsuccessful in its attempts. BYU then stopped
showing edited movies, and instead showed older movies and G-rated movies
that weren't objectionable, and this year, when those movies didn't prove
popular, shut down the theater.
Meanwhile, Utah entrepreneurs started editing videos, again drawing
publicity, and objecting letters from Hollywood. First Sunrise Family Video,
also in American Fork, began editing customer-owned videos, excising
objectionable parts from copies of Titanic that its customers had already
purchased and then sent to them for editing. Paramount again threatened
legal action, citing copyright law. But Sunrise owner Carol Biesinger said a
year later that Paramount never followed up on its threat, "There's been
nothing since then. They're probably smart to let it go."
Generally, owners can do what they want with copies of copyrighted material,
so long as they don't then 'publish' them and try to sell them elsewhere.
This probably has protected Sunrise Family Video, making its practice legal
and keeping Paramount from taking action. However, other entrepreneurs have
since pushed another line. Earlier this year Ray Lines' Clean Flicks also
made the news, this time by offering the videos for
rental to those that have joined his co-op video club.
Again Hollywood has claimed that the practice violates the copyright law,
but has failed to take any action. Lines claims he has tried to reach
Hollywood about the issue, only to be ignored. "I've had my lawyers call
every one of those guys. It's not a priority for the movie houses. After
some hostile muttering, the film industry has been silent."
One industry spokesman, Rob Friedman, the vice chairman of the motion
picture group for Paramount Pictures, said that while studios probably had
no recourse against the editing of privately owned videos, renting out
altered tapes was tantamount to engaging in copyright and trademark
Not surprisingly, other studio-affiliated lawyers agree. Christopher C.
Murray, the chairman of the entertainment and media division of the law firm
O'Melveny &Myers in Los Angeles, whose clients include studios, actors and
executives, stated that renting out altered tapes without authorization
violates federal laws. Mr. Lines, however, says that his lawyer has assured
him that he stands on solid ground.
Meanwhile, new shops have entered the market, including the Schenk's Clean
Cut Videos in Kaysville, and the Moutlon's Play It Clean, making it a little
more likely that Hollywood will eventually have to act. While the market in
Utah may be small enough for Hollywood to ignore, if the practice of editing
videos expands outside of Utah and the Mormon market, Hollywood will have to
decide what it will do. Even if it can successfully prosecute those editing
videos, expanding demand would indicate a market not getting what it wants,
leaving Hollywood with the choice of either allowing the editing, or joining
Store renting edited versions of movies opens in Cedar City
St George UT Spectrum 13Oct01 B2
By Ed Kociela
BYU's Varsity Theater Closes After Editing Disallowed
Edited Video Efforts Again Make National News
CleanFlicks' Editing Reviewed in RedHerring
LDS Businessman Cleans-Up Movies, Makes Slate Sex Column
Mormon Video Store Keeps Editing in Spite of Legal Threat
Am. F. video store may be winning battle with studio over edited films