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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Is Blockbuster Going Far Enough By Only Labeling New Terror-Themed Releases Streeting After Oct. 30?

28 Sep, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I've heard a lot of people, both within our industry and without, questionBlockbuster's announcement a few days ago that it would start warning its customers of videos with "terrorist themes."

Blockbuster, you might have heard, plans on putting shelf-talkers below newly released videos or games in which bad people blow things up, or talk about blowing things up, with the disclaimer, "In light of the events of Sept. 11, please note this product contains scenes that may be considered disturbing tosome viewers."

The first title to get this treatment is Swordfish, which comes out Oct. 30.

When senior v.p. Karen Raskopf first told me about this move in a phoneconversation we had Tuesday, I considered it a thoughtful and appropriate gesture.

Others saw things differently. A fellow journalist grew red in the face and said it sounded to her as though Big Blue was seeking to capitalize on theterrorist attacks by, in effect, promoting violent videos. "It's like B'rerRabbit and the briar patch," she said. "By ostensibly warning people not to watch these videos, they're actually piquing their curiosity."

A friend who had just heard the news had a different viewpoint. "It sounds asthough Blockbuster is going overboard in trying to be politically correct," she said.

I, for one, remain unchanged in my original opinion -- that Blockbuster's move makes sense. My wife is a flight attendant -- with American Airlines, no less -- and is understandably in a fragile state of mind about the tragedies.

I sure as heck wouldn't want to bring home a movie and all of a sudden find something unexpected -- and unwanted.

There are those who would thump me over the head for that last comment, and ask me how could I be so dumb? Couldn't I tell whether a video might have some objectionable scenes by looking at the cover or reading the synopsis on the back?

Sadly, the answer is no. Those of us who have been in this business long enough know full well that the old saying, "You can't tell a book by its cover," holds doubly true in home video. How many times have we brought home screeners because the box art looked tantalizing or the description sounded enticing, and yet when we watched the movie either 1) the scene on the front of the box wasn't even in the movie or 2) the description had very little, if anything, to do with the actual plot?

If anything, I question whether Blockbuster is going far enough by only labeling new releases streeting after Oct. 30 -- particularly since the "new release" shelves are crowded with videos up to a year old. There's a lot ofstuff that in light of recent events could make my skin crawl -- and I, for one, would like to know about it.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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