If you’ve been on a long-haul flight recently, you might have noticed the films being shown were a bit different from their cinematic release.
They’re usually a bit shorter as they’ve been made family-friendly for any young eyes who can see your screen.
Earlier this month Sony decided to make these sanitised versions available to download at home, choosing 24 titles including Ghostbusters and Easy A.
But now they’ve had to backtrack after filmmakers complained about the move.
Which films are included?
There’s an initial list of 24 films which have been watered down. They include action dramas, superhero movies and romcoms.
Those films are:
- 50 First Dates, Battle Of The Year, Big Daddy, Captain Phillips
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Easy A, Elysium, Ghostbusters
- Ghostbusters II, Goosebumps, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2
- Hancock, Inferno, Moneyball, Pixels, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2
- Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, White House Down
How have they been changed?
It varies from film to film – perhaps unsurprising as their ratings vary from PG to R.
- For example, the clean version of Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers – originally given an R rating for “crude and sexual content” according to Sony – has had 23 instances of violence taken out, 152 of bad language and 91 of sexual content.
- The Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler romcom 50 First Dates had a PG13 for “crude sexual humour and drug references”. Its clean version has 10 violent moments taken out, 34 uses of bad language and 34 instances of sexual content.
- Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium, which also had an R rating for “bloody violence”, had 18 of those violent moments taken out, 63 uses of bad language and one instance of sexual content.
- Horror comedy Goosebumps was a PG when it came out – so could be described as family-friendly already. But its clean version had four fewer incidences of violence, with five uses of bad language and five examples of nudity taken out too.
What has Sony said?
After the outcry the president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Man Jit Singh, said their directors were of “paramount importance to us” and they wanted to “respect those relationships to the utmost”.
“We believed we had obtained approvals from the film-makers involved, for use of their previously supervised television versions as a value-added extra on sales of the full version,” he said.
“But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will discontinue it for their films.”
How was the scheme announced?
The Clean Version initiative was launched, complete with its own website, at the beginning of June.
In its initial press release, Sony said the initiative would “allow viewers to screen the broadcast or airline versions of select Sony films, free from certain mature content”.
They said Clean Version “allows viewing for a wider audience giving people the chance to watch their favourite films together”.
The move comes after third party services had been making similar edits of films – so Sony decided to do the work themselves too.
How do people get a clean version?
They can choose to download a clean version of the film from a number of platforms listed on Sony’s website.
The original version is included together with the edited film.
What has the reaction been?
Knocked Up star Seth Rogen (who doesn’t have any films affected by the move so far) was one of the first to react when news of Clean Version emerged. He pleaded, adding a swear word for emphasis, “please don’t do this to our movies”.
He went on to explain some of the changes that were made to a TV version of Pineapple Express, by way of an example – saying that one expletive became “j’accuse!” and the word “casserole” was used to substitute a similar-sounding swear word.
Here’s an exchange he had on Twitter about the Sony scheme:
Judd Apatow, who produced Step Brothers – one of the first films to have a Clean Version released – tweeted: “So now we are being asked if we are okay with our movies being released in a sanitised form. Let me be clear – it is not okay.”
But Digital Trends website said: “This is good news for consumers. Parents get to introduce the kids to some of their favourite films and those without little ones can go ahead and watch them the way they were meant to be seen.”
The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has said the “hard-fought-for rights that protect a director’s work and vision” are “at the very heart of our craft and a thriving film industry”.
They said: “The DGA has notified Sony that it expects the immediate removal of all ‘clean’ versions of the affected films from availability until Sony secures permission from each and every director, and provides them with an opportunity to edit a version for release in new media.”
What happens now?
We wait to see if any of the films are removed from Sony’s list – and if they end up adding more to it, or scrapping the scheme altogether.
It will be also interesting to see what the public reaction is to the scheme, as it’s not entirely clear who it is aimed at, with many of the films already considered to be suitable for older children – and others perhaps not appealing to a younger audience at all in the first place.
But at least film fans can rest assured that they can still watch versions filled with profanity, violence and nudity – if they so desire.