SALT LAKE CITY
In the heart of the conservative West, a mom-and-pop video store has dared to take on a cinematic giant in the name of family entertainment.
For $5, Don Biesinger has offered to snip three breathless minutes from the video version of "Titanic" for his customers, launching a test of wills against the distributor of one of the most popular films of all time. Now, this minor drama being played out in a small town in Utah may signal a broader experiment in the limits of tolerance, both of the viewing public and the film industry.
For Paramount Pictures, the issue is a simple copyright violation about unauthorized alteration of its films. But for people increasingly frustrated by the preponderance of R-rated films, it's a war over personal rights and morality.
When Mr. Biesinger took early retirement, he and his wife used his pension money to buy Sunrise Family Video, a small shop in American Fork, Utah. Well aware that his customers are among the most conservative in a state known for its conservatism, Biesinger doesn't rent out any films with ratings higher than PG-13.
While "Titanic" is rated PG-13, Biesinger knew he would have trouble cashing in on the film's much-publicized video release. He'd have to deal with some touchy morality issues.
"The problems were not only sexual, but sometimes there was violence, dead bodies and everything," he says. "We thought, 'Well, our customers have been saying they'd buy that movie if they could get the bad parts cut out.' "
Indeed, a recent poll for the Mormon Church-owned newspaper The Deseret News showed that nearly 60 percent of the residents of Utah County - which includes American Fork - would rent edited copies of popular films if they could.
One county's crusade
This is not the first time Utah County - a county of 300,000 just south of Salt Lake City - has been at odds with the film industry over family viewing.