Poll: Mixed Reviews for 'Sanitized' Movies

ByANALYSIS by Jon Cohen

April 22, 2005 -- -- Americans divide on the unauthorized "sanitizing" of Hollywood movies, with the sex and violence cut out -- but in an ABC News poll four in 10 say they might rent such flicks, a huge potential market for the small and controversial enterprise.

Interest in these edited movies peaks in some groups, including parents with kids at home and born-again or evangelical Christians. But it's high enough among all Americans to lend the issue some clout.

A few video rental companies have been cutting sexual or violent scenes out of Hollywood movies and offering these edited versions for rent on video or DVD, calling it an alternative their customers want. Studios and directors have sued, saying it violates their copyrights and damages the integrity of their editorial products.

Americans are not unsympathetic to the objections: Fifty-one percent say the editing should not be allowed. But 44 percent are in favor. And even without majority support, the potential market is substantial: Thirty-nine percent say that, given the choice, they'd be likely to rent movies edited for sexual and violent content. Twenty percent -- representing more than 40 million individuals -- say they'd be very likely to do so.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Were this an election, the "nos" would have it: Opponents of the practice outnumber supporters by seven points; people who wouldn't rent such movies outnumber those who might by 19 points; and people who are "very" unlikely to rent them outnumber their opposites by 25 points. Still, in terms of a potential market, interest is significant.

The market for sanitized movies likely is driven in part by Americans' broad sense, shown in previous polls, that that there's too much sex and violence in movies and that violence in films can encourage violent behavior in real life. In a related development, Congress on Tuesday passed a bill that protects companies selling scene-skipping technology from copyright lawsuits.

This poll was done by ABC News to support the ABC News-produced AMC special, "Bleep! Censoring Hollywood," airing Tuesday April, 26 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on AMC.

The firms currently providing this service tend to be faith-based, and indeed born-again or evangelical Christians are much more likely than others to say that video rental companies should be allowed to proceed with sanitized versions (54 percent to 36 percent). Born-again or evangelical Christians, moreover, are twice as apt to say they're very likely to rent such movies, 29 percent to 14 percent.

Married people are bigger supporters of edited movies than are non-married adults, as are those with pre-teen children at home compared with those without young kids. Interest in renting such films also is higher among marrieds and parents; also among Americans younger than 45 (they're more apt to have kids at home), and among Southerners versus Northeasterners (Southerners are more apt to be born-again Christians).

Opposition to unauthorized editing peaks among unmarried adults, those who are not born-again Christians, those with annual household incomes $25,000 or less and 18- to 34-year-olds; interest in renting such films is lowest among men, those without kids at home, adults aged 65 and up, the unmarried, and those who are not born-again Christians.

Given the interest in such products, a compromise doesn't seem impossible: Films, after all, long have been edited -- with Hollywood participation -- for viewing on airline flights.

This ABC News poll for American Movie Classics was conducted by telephone Jan. 26-30, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation was done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

You can find more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.

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