Basic Instinct 2: A Review
Not of the movie, of course. I haven’t seen it and indeed, my wife and I haven’t been to an adult film—I don’t mean porn (though BI2 may qualify), I just mean a movie that you go to without your kids—in a theater in years.
Instead, I want to focus on the interaction between the MPAA’s content ratings system and versioning—multiple versions of the same content—and windows—the time periods between releases of versions.
As every movie watcher knows, the Motion Picture Association of America has a trademarked rating system for movies: G; PG; PG-13; R; and NC-17. The trademarks are important. The NC-17 rating—for films that “most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17”—replaced the X rating. The MPAA didn’t trademark the X and the porn industry glommed on to it with glee (XXX must be three times as good as X).
The ratings system is a simple way of conveying information about films, but the lumpiness of the ratings system has real consequences. These show up at the edges, where the difference between NC-17 and R and between R and PG-13 is substantial.
Some theaters will not show NC-17 films and those films have been harder to advertise. Box-office revenues tended to be lower on R rated films than on PG-13, so movie deals often require the delivery of a film that will receive a particular rating.
The original cut of BI2 would have received an NC-17 and to the dismay of Sharon Stone—her ice pick has been curiously silent on the ratings question—director Michael Caton-Jones edited the film to get an R rating.
But now we get to versioning, windows and a little bit of backwards induction. As to versioning, you can be sure that an unedited version will make it to the DVD. Indeed, just as a studio can issue full-screen and wide-screen DVD versions—I have yet to convince my five-year old daughter as to why full-screen versions are completely unacceptable—it can issue separate versions of BI2. Wal-Mart will want no more than the R-rated version, but many distributors will be happy to provide the unedited (and unrated) version of BI2.
But now windows and backwards induction. If there was ever a movie that screamed DVD, BI2 is it. The early reviews are quite bad. You really don’t want to waste a ton of money on a bad movie, plus this is a movie that you want to see only once. If you are going to see it once, do you want to see the edited version or the unedited version? Sharon Stone in various stages of undress is presumably the core attraction of the movie and that means the unedited version. Plus this is a movie that you will want to have the option to fast forward.
All of that means DVD and that suggests that the window between the theatrical release and the DVD release should collapse. Technology is generally making it harder to sustain content restrictions, be those restrictions over time or over geography. Consumer knowledge of content practices matters too, as consumers know that they can wait for the DVD. That is especially the case when the rating systems means that the movie that you want to see—if you are going to see it at all—won’t ever be in the theaters but instead will just show up on the soon-to-be-arriving DVD.