Varsity Theatre to stop editing movies

From Newsnet - the official newspaper of BYU
Friday, July 31, 1998
Associate Copy Chief

Effective Tuesday, BYU's Varsity Theatre will no longer edit films before showing them, Director of Media Communications Carri Jenkins announced Friday.

Instead, the theater will only show movies that, in their unedited condition, already meet BYU standards against profanity, nudity, excessive violence and sexual innuendo. This means, most likely, G-rated movies and older, 'classic' films.

'Discussions with suppliers of films and film companies have made it clear that BYU will not be able to secure formal approval to continue editing films,' Jenkins said in a prepared statement. 'BYU will discontinue editing movies for the Varsity Theatre ... (and) will continue to exercise judgment and prudence in the choice of films that it shows on the BYU campus.'

BYU has never hidden the fact that it edited movies for content, having had a long-standing agreement with the film distributor, Swank Motion Pictures, that the editing was OK. However, after Sony -- the film company responsible for such Varsity hits as 'Jerry Maguire' and 'Air Force One' -- found out that Swank was allowing BYU to edit Sony's movies, representatives from Sony sent a letter to BYU asking them not to do so any more.

This prompted BYU officials to contact the other film companies to make sure it was all right with them that the distributor was allowing the Varsity Theatre to edit their movies.

Student Life Vice President Alton Wade said he 'talked personally with representatives' from close to 10 major film companies, and the answer, universally, was 'no.'

Wade declined to name which specific companies BYU had been getting movies from, via the distributor; however, he did acknowledge that it was the 'major' film companies.

Recent Varsity films have been from such companies as 20th Century Fox, Paramount and Disney, among others.

This decision, Jenkins said, was not a 'knee-jerk reaction' to the recent controversy in American Fork, where a theater that had been showing an edited version of 'Titanic' was told to cease and desist by Paramount. Jenkins said BYU has been reviewing the situation for several months; indeed, Jenkins and Wade discussed the issue with a Daily Universe reporter in April, just after the Sony letter came and contacts with the other film companies were being made.

The final decision was made within the last few weeks; however, it was not expected to be implemented until the beginning of Fall Semester. With the controversy in American Fork, though, newspaper reporters have been clamoring to find out whether BYU was still going to edit movies. Rather than telling them 'yes' and then changing policies in September, Jenkins said it became necessary to implement the new policy immediately.