A re-edited film is a film that has been modified from its original theatrical release. These films are typically preceded by the disclaimer, "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for content." Reasons for this type of editing may range from the distributor's demands to accommodating different audience groups. Fan-made movie edits are often met with controversy, as they bring up issues of copyright law.
Types of re-editing
There are three main types of film editing: format, length, and content.
- Format: Feature films are commonly produced in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio or 2.40:1 aspect ratio. which is different from the screen formats television currently has – A standard 1.33:1 (or 4:3) aspect ratio of analog television and the growing standard of 1.77:1 (or 16:9) aspect ratio for digital television. Prior to the beginning of a film presented in the 4:3 aspect ratio on VHS tapes or DVDs, a disclaimer appears (mainly a black background), reading, This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen. Since the adoption of HD television, some theatrical films intended for 2.39 or 2.40 aspect ratios have been reframed for 1.78 (16x9) for television and home video, and also require the modification warning as per DGA rules.
- Length: Films may be shortened for television broadcasting or for use on airlines. DVD releases of films may also contain longer cuts. In a growing trend, more and more films are being released in an Unrated cut of the film. Prior to when TV airings of the film begins, a format screen appears reading, "The following film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen, to run in the time allotted and edited for content" (see below). The end credits on TV airings of films sometimes speed up to make time for the next show or film to start, or to free up more airtime for advertisements, which has become an increasingly-common practice.
- Content: Some films have content deemed "objectionable" to "family audiences": sexual content, obscene language, graphic violence, and perceived racial insensitivity. To make these films suitable for younger or more typical audiences, or to appeal to advertisers when a film is shown on basic cable or broadcast TV, alternative versions are created with such content removed or replaced. Often, profanities are replaced with minced oaths. The editing of these versions is performed by a censor and not the producer or director of the work. In addition, a film is often times edited if it receives the NC-17 (No one 17 and under admitted) rating from the MPAA, as NC-17 rated films are not screened at mainstream cinemas or advertised on television. Therefore, studios will often re-edit the film to achieve an R rating instead.
There are two main techniques for re-editing films:
Purchased film content is downloaded onto an editing work station hard drive and third-party editors manually re-edit the video and audio tracks, removing objectionable content. The re-edited version is then copied onto media (VHS or DVD) and made available for rental or purchase provided an original version has been purchased in correlation with the re-edited copy. Some manual re-edits are done by fans (see The Phantom Edit) to cut a film to their own – or their peers – specifications.
Although the recent court ruling prohibits business from manually re-editing commercial films, the law still allows for individuals to self censor and edit their own films for personal use.
Programmed re-editing occurs when software (such as that employed in a DVD player) is used to skip portions of the video and/or audio content on-the-fly according to pre-programmed instruction sets which are knowingly used by the consumer.
In any case, theatrical films that aired on television in the 1970s and most of the 1980s would simply have an "Edited For Television" disclaimer superimposed right after the opening credits, or, in a few cases, superimposed over the movie title card itself, just below the title. However, today, when a theatrical film or television special is aired on network or syndicated television or is re-issued on video in a form different from its original version, variations of the following disclaimers appear:
- "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen."
- "The following film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen."
- "This film has been modified as follows from its original version: It has been formatted to fit your screen."
- Depending on content and time, the disclaimer will add: "...to run in the time allotted and for content." or "...and to run in the time allotted." or "...and edited for content."
- Disney films prepared for television by Disney-ABC Domestic Television and other select TV stations will have: "This film has been edited for television", or "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been edited for television and formatted to fit this screen."
- Many DVD releases that contain versions of films different from the theatrical releases, such as Universal Studios Home Video's Legend director's cut DVD will have: "This film has been modified from its original version to include additional material not in the original release."
- In the instance of black-and-white films that have been colorized, there will often be a disclaimer such as the following: "This is a colorized version of a film originally marketed and distributed to the public in black and white. It has been altered without the participation of the principal director, screenwriter, and other creators of the original film."
History of manual re-editing
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Early cases of this practice go back to the Nazis, who regularly stole prints of American movies from European countries during their Blitzkrieg raids. They would then either cheaply reanimate the movie (see Hochzeit im Korallenmeer), or they would change the names in the credits (as with Max and David Fleischer's cartoons).
As theatrical movies began to air on television, networks successfully sought permission to air shortened versions of movies. These TV version of theatrical films had scenes or sections of movies cut out, in order to provide a length short enough to fit in fixed number normal television half-hour-based time slots (often four half-hour slots). This also allowed scenes unsuitable for television to be cut or trimmed such as those with sex or graphic violence. On the other hand, networks would also often add footage deleted from a film's theatrical release to pad out a certain running time (3 to 4 hours).
In response to consumer demand, families began to re-edit purchased VHS tapes literally by making cuts and splices to the tape. A hotbed for this activity has been Utah with its conservative and entrepreneurial population. When Titanic was released on VHS, a video store owner in Utah began offering to re-edit purchased copies of the film for a $5 service fee. The service became very popular. Before long, several video rental businesses purchased VHS tapes and had them re-edited for their rental club/co-op members to watch.
At the end of the 1990s, some small companies began selling copies of movies, without the violent, indecent or foul language parts, to appeal to the family audience. By 2003, Hollywood reacted against these unauthorized modifications, as it considered them to be a destruction of the filmmakers work, and a violation of the controls an author has over his or her works. Famous directors and producers, such as Steven Spielberg, have publicly criticized this practice in magazines.
When DVD technology emerged, the re-editing industry began offering for sale or rental a disabled DVD accompanied by a re-edited version of the film on a coupled DVD-R Several companies attempted this business. First, some tried to do it via physical brick and mortar stores, the most successful being the deal model and proprietary stores owned by CleanFlicks, Inc. of Utah. Clean Films later became the largest and most successful company in the business by employing an online rental model (similar to Netflix) and avoiding any physical stores. CleanFlicks and CleanFilms were sued with several others and a federal judge in Colorado ruled that the companies were violating copyright. Those named in the lawsuit ceased renting and selling edited films. The legal argument was that the editing resulted in a derivation on a fixed media. At all times, for instance, CleanFilms sold edited films with a legitimately purchased original copy. Furthermore, every rented unit in edited format had a corresponding original copy that was purchased at retail. The judge ruled that the fixed media caused the violation. ClearPlay was not affected by this ruling, as they did not sell fixed media, and editing took place as the unaltered streamed media was altered by the consumer's control of ClearPlay's software.
The lawsuit started because a CleanFlicks franchisee in Colorado pre-emptively sued major directors. The franchisee feared the directors were going to sue because the DGA's website said as much. The Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association of America counter-sued and also included several edited film companies for copyright infringement and claims regarding derivative works. In 2006, Judge Richard P. Matsch of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that it was a copyright violation to distribute re-edited films without the consent from the film studios (key was the fixed media aspect of the businesses).
In an odd twist, despite Judge Matsch's decision and order to the re-editing companies to destroy all their re-edited inventory, shortly after the studios' victory in the Denver court, the lawyers for the studios negotiated with lawyers for the re-editing companies allowing for the sale of existing inventory. One of the companies in the first three days of a "going out of business sale" generated more than a quarter of a million dollars in revenue and eventually sold enough re-edited movies to provide original investors a five times or better return on investment. This is an unexpected investor outcome given the loss of a major infringement case.
Less controversial than external bodies editing movies were the rise of director's cut editions of movies, which flourished with the advent of DVDs. These restore (and occasionally also shorten or omit, as in the case of Alien) scenes or footage from movies which had been shortened for whatever reason (including studio interference with the directors creative vision, inability to finish what was intended due to technology, or even the reactions of test audiences).
History of programmed re-editing
ClearPlay was sued by the DGA and MPAA, but the case was rendered moot by The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which clarified that ClearPlay's filtering approach was legal and did not violate copyright law. As a result, ClearPlay has been able to offer its products to consumers in the U.S. while others have discontinued for legal reasons.
Another aspect of re-editing comes with consumer made edits, which are called fan edits (or fanedits). It is when consumers load the films into their computers and use video editing software to produce mostly a version with changed content for their own entertainment. Fan edits are becoming more popular since they are spread over the internet.
Future of the industry
It is unclear where this industry is headed. There is demand for the product.[original research?] A 2005 ABC News poll of 1,002 adults from across the United States found that 39% of those polled were interested in purchasing re-edited films, while 58% of respondents said that would not be interested in such a purchase (with a 3-point error margin).
Despite the aforementioned legal rulings, companies continue to sell re-edited movies via the Internet. Some have been shut down as well. Yet, search engine results on the web reveal companies continue to provide fixed media products, such as Clean Play DVDs. Sometimes they use "going out of business" tactics to move inventory. However, physical "brick and mortar" stores have been shut down, such as Cougar Video in Provo, Utah, which remained open long after the named companies in the aforementioned lawsuit were closed down.
One company, Swank, offers re-edited movies created by the studios themselves, supposedly for showings in correctional facilities and other non-theatrical locations. It is not clear if these versions are the same re-edited versions that studios create for airlines or television showings.
- "Fan-Made Movie Edits: Another Cultural Loss At The Hands Of Copyright". Techdirt. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
- "ABC News Poll". (2005, April 22). Poll: Mixed Reviews for 'Sanitized' Movies.
- "Edited Movies and Clean Family Edited DVDS for Sale ,". archive.org. 9 January 2011. Archived from the original on 9 January 2011.
- "Edited Movies and Clean Family Edited DVDS for Sale ,". archive.org. 8 July 2011. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-02-27.