Last week, we reported that Sony was moving forward with a pilot program where they would offer clean versions of selection movies on digital download. The list of 24 films ranged from inoffensive fare like Goosebumps to R-rated comedies like Step Brothers. These clean versions already existed from being edited for airlines and cable networks, but now Sony was simply offering it as a bonus to anyone who wanted the clean version with their digital download. It didn’t supplant the original version, and it wasn’t being forced on anyone.
Nevertheless, there’s been an outcry, and Sony is reconsidering the program. The studio tells THR, “Our directors are of paramount importance to us, and we want to respect those relationships to the utmost. We believed we had obtained approvals from the filmmakers involved for use of their previously supervised television versions as a value added extra on sales of the full version,” so now they’re going back and making sure the directors are okay with the clean versions being sold. If they’re not okay with it, Sony says “we will discontinue it for their films.”
Already, Judd Apatow has spoken out on Twitter about having clean versions of his films sold, saying “This is absolute bullshit and @sony and @SonyPictures is gonna get hell for F—ING with our movies. Shove the clean versions up your asses!” I assume Apatow is referring to movies he’s produced since all the films he’s directed were for Universal.
Ultimately, it looks like Sony never bothered to reach out to directors. “The Clean Version initiative is news to Adam McKay. He would not have agreed to this,” said a rep for the filmmaker. McKay’s Step Brothers and Talladega Nights are both offering clean versions.
On the one hand, I sympathize with the filmmakers. It sounds like their movies are being tampered with and resold by people who didn’t want their original vision. On the other hand, these versions already exist. I seriously doubt any director would tell a major studio, “You can’t edit my movie for airlines or for cable networks,” because those are major revenue streams. Sony is simply trying to get a little more money with a product it already has. Filmmakers can object to people watching those versions, but that version already exists no matter what. I’m not exactly sure what’s been solved by removing it from digital download. Then again, I’m not exactly sure who wants a “clean version” of Step Brothers in the first place.