Sony's censored films anger directors

The first wave of movies that were cut included the Academy Award- nominated drama Moneyball (2011, above).
The first wave of movies that were cut included the Academy Award- nominated drama Moneyball (2011, above).PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
Other movies in the line-up include Ghostbusters II.
Other movies in the line-up include Ghostbusters II.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Plan by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to release cleaned-up films faces resistance from film-makers, who want the right to edit the work

LOS ANGELES • Cleaned-up versions of movies are causing a ruckus in Hollywood, with film-makers lashing out at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for trying to make money from censored versions you would normally see on an airplane or basic cable.

Sony has announced that it is making the edited versions of movies, with all the mature content snipped out, available as a free extra for consumers who buy the theatrical version.

The clean variants are not newly edited, but merely the ones that already appear on airlines and television. 

The first wave includes 24 films, from comedy romp Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2006) to Academy Award-nominated drama Moneyball (2011).

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Classics are not safe either, with sterilised versions of Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989) lined up as well.

Sony's censored versions can be purchased through iTunes, Fandango and Vudu.

The clean cut of 2008 comedy Step Brothers, for instance, gets rid of 23 instances of violence, 152 uses of foul language and 91 iterations of sexual content. At 93 minutes, it is five minutes shorter than the movie's original run time.

"This is a pilot programme, developed in response to specific consumer feedback, that offers viewers the option of watching an airline or TV version of certain movies when they purchase the original version," said Mr Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

"We discussed this programme and the use of these pre-existing versions with each director or their representatives."

At least one creator said he had no idea it was happening.

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Adam McKay, who has two films - Talladega Nights and Step Brothers - on Sony's list, was not aware that they would be included.

He would not have agreed to it if he knew, the report said.

McKay is not the only Hollywood type who is irked.

Sony's move is being decried by some of the West Coast's loudest. Actor and film-maker Seth Rogen was quick to respond after Sony's announcement, pleading with the studio to kill the programme.

None of Rogen's films (he starred in 2005 sex comedy The 40-Year- Old Virgin, for instance) is on the initial list. But he hopes that it will not happen to his movies anyway because, he said, they are so lewd, there "wouldn't be enough screen time left".

"I don't dig any watered-down version being out there, but those are done so ramshackle, they would never pass for the actual product," Rogen wrote on Twitter.

But "I'd be worried these would be put together so well that in several years, you wouldn't know these weren't the original films".

Judd Apatow bluntly denounced Sony on Twitter and said it would "get hell" for meddling with directors' work.

"Shove the clean versions," added the director of the hit The 40- Year-Old Virgin movie.

The Directors Guild of America agrees with Apatow.

"Directors have the right to edit their feature films for every non-theatrical platform, plain and simple," it said in a statement.

"Taking a director's edit for one platform and then releasing it on another - without giving the director the opportunity to edit - violates our agreement."

Last week, in response to the uproar, Sony offered to stop circulating the censored versions if directors disapprove.

"We believed we had obtained approvals from the film-makers," Mr Singh said in a statement. "But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will discontinue it for their films."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'Sony's censored films anger directors'. Print Edition | Subscribe