OREM, Utah -- An effort to get studios to release the so-called "airline" versions of R-rated movies is flying once again.
Some members of the Video Software Dealers Association are attempting to convince studios to release these versions, which are typically edited for viewing on airplanes and later on television, said Gregg Wright, president of Sound Vision. Wright is president of VSDA's Utah chapter and is also an investor in Video III here, which racks 120 supermarket rental departments in the Western states.
The plan got an enthusiastic reception from attendees at VSDA's regional leaders' meeting last month in Los Angeles, and is now under review by the association's legal counsel, said Wright.
"This is just giving the studios and the video retailers a new way to make some money," he said. "There are all kinds of different versions available for specific needs and niche markets." But there is more demand for edited versions of R-rated movies than for letterbox or colorized versions, he added.
The idea of issuing edited versions on video was first promoted five years ago by Prime Cut Entertainment, Mission Viejo, Calif., which sought to become a distributor of such movies. It claimed the support of many large supermarket chains.
But there are two differences between what Wright is proposing and Prime Cut's plan, which never got off the ground. For one, Wright is not seeking to set up a separate distributorship, but only to gain access to these movies for the stores in which he has an interest, and for the other retailers he represents as a VSDA chapter president. Secondly, he is not asking that they be released at the same time as the initial rental street date. Instead, he's seeking to have the video versions available when the movies are repriced for the sell-through market.
Wright's plan to release the edited versions after the main rental window addresses the studios' economic concern over diluting sales of the original release, he said.
"If you will wait and bring it out when it is repriced, then it will not affect the original purchase," he said. "The retailers will still need to buy the same number of copies.
"But when it comes out in an edited version, then retailers who want to have complete family sections will buy additional copies at that time for that area. So those would be incremental sales that will not cannibalize the original order."
As to the concerns of the creative community, "They are already allowing these movies to go out as an airline version and eventually as a TV version. So if it is already going out to those two sources, why not make it available to video retailers as well?" said Wright.
"There is a large portion of the population that, for one reason or another, will not rent R-rated product, but they still have a strong interest in seeing these movies in an edited form," he noted. Wright said these movies will have less demand on the East and West coasts, and more in places like the Bible Belt, the Midwest and Western states like Utah and Wyoming.
Another long-time supporter of releasing the airline-edited versions of movies is the Dove Foundation, Grand Rapids, Mich. "We think it is time to open the discussion again about making edited titles available to the general public," said Dick Rolfe, managing director.
Noting the departure from the rental business by Glen's Markets, Gaylord, Mich., because of unwillingness to carry R-rated movies, Rolfe said edited versions would answer such concerns.
"Hollywood has always argued that they didn't want to put two stockkeeping units on the same shelf," he pointed out. "Well, they've solved that problem. The supermarkets are not putting anything out. So let's at least get one version of some of these movies out on the shelves, even if it is an edited version."
Rolfe advocates releasing the edited versions at the same time as the original version. Studies done a few years ago showed that retailers would increase the number of copies they'd buy if the edited versions were offered, he said. "The whole argument of cannibalization of sales is a non sequitur," he stated.
The movie business should take a cue from the music industry, which is making special edited versions of recordings available to Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., said Rolfe. "They have proven that edited versions of entertainment product will sell," he said.