LOS ANGELES -- Hoping to capitalize on a market looking for edited family entertainment, New Line Home Video here released "The Mask," starring Jim Carrey, in an edited version for family viewing.
According to Pam Kelley, New Line's vice president of sales, the studio removed language and scenes that it deemed might be offensive to those looking for films appropriate for younger viewers. Other movies on deck for an edited release are "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," "Dumb and Dumber" and two Mortal Kombat films. All were rated PG-13, and will sell for $14.95 -- the same price as the originals.
"We've had requests from retailers for awhile about this," she said. "When we looked at our library, we identified "The Mask" as one of those titles that would appeal to the whole family. It's a good test product to introduce our edited family line."
Supermarket retailers reacted favorably to the release last month, particularly those serving a more conservative clientele.
"We're in the buckle of the Bible belt," said Ryndie Liess, video manager at Country Mart, Hollister, Mo. "This whole area is big on family entertainment and family values -- the whole bit. Even box art will affect their decision about what to rent."
She said her customers have often complained about content, so she and her staff preview films before they put them on the shelves so that they can better serve individual tastes. "We try to get to know our customers as well as possible," she said. "If we know someone is offended by excessive language, we'll inform them not to watch a film with a lot of swearing. If we see a child pick up a film that we think might be inappropriate, we'll tell his or her parents to watch it first. Edited titles would make our job a lot easier."
Jason Hoyle, video manager, Hilander Foods, Rockford, Ill., believes the edited version will sell, although he doesn't serve the same conservative base as Liess.
"Personally, I like to see what the director and writer wanted in a movie," he said. "I can't stand watching something on TV, knowing that I'm missing scenes. But certain people do want to see an edited version, particularly older people."
Hoyle is aware that supermarkets cater to a broader base of consumers, which is why he's careful more about box art than the content of a film. "If the art is too racy, it might not be appropriate for a supermarket," he said. "I didn't even put up the poster for "American Beauty," because it didn't seem appropriate for this setting. I did get 19 copies of the film, though, all of which are renting. We can thank Blockbuster for that."
Big Blue's dispute with DreamWorks Home Entertainment over pricing prompted the retailing giant to buy light on the Oscar winner; most stores didn't even bother to put it on their shelves. Customers had to ask for it in order for it to be brought out from under the counter.
"It's great Blockbuster didn't get them," Hoyle said. "It's helping us little retailers."
He believes that ultimately, the edited Mask will sell well, as does Dick Rolfe, founder and CEO of The Dover Foundation in Grand Rapids, Mich. After years of requesting edited family versions of films, he's thrilled that New Line has made the leap.
"Supermarkets, along with mass merchants and religious stores, are the most suitable markets for this kind of a product," he said. "There's such a demand for this kind of option."
In the past, he said, studios have offered many excuses as to why editing films for families was not feasible, but he finds none of them convincing.
"Some say you can't have too many stockkeeping units for a title, others say edited versions would take up too much shelf space, but these arguments don't hold," he said. "What about director's cuts? What about unrated versions? Right there, you're catering to two audiences. My response is that there are at least as many people who want to see sanitized versions as unrated versions."