NC-17 X’d Out At Blockbuster; Wildmon, AFA Boycott Lifted

The American Family Assn. called off its boycott of Blockbuster Video following the vidstore chain’s decision not to stock NC-17 movies.

“We will send a mailing in about a week to about 425,000 people,” per Donald Wildmon, prez of AFA. “That’s the same number we announced [the boycott] to.”

The AFA sent the letter to supporters announcing the boycott about the first of the year.

AFA also sent out “Fight NC-17 Action Packets” to some supporters and pledged to send about a million kits, which included pre-addressed postcards to Wayne Huizenga, chairman of the 1,600-store chain.

According to Ron Castell, senior v.p. of programming and merchandising, Blockbuster received “several thousand” postcards, but very few of the senders were club members.

Castell said the NC-17 issue had been under review at Blockbuster since the Motion Picture Assn. of America announced the new rating and that the decision not to stock NC-17 titles was not a result of the boycott.

“We never carried X-rated films,” per Castell, “and the MPAA’s criteria for rating a film NC-17 are the same criteria as they were for rating an X.”

In announcing the end of the boycott, Wildmon said, “The NC-17 rating is an effort by Hollywood to mainstream porno films.” He called Blockbuster’s decision a setback to the MPAA’s efforts to get the NC-17 accepted.

Responding to the Blockbuster decision, the MPAA issued the following statement: “We believe the majority of American adults would prefer to make their own decisions about the movies they will watch… We urge both theaters and video retailers to make their decisions about which movies they will carry based on content rather than the rating alone.”

Wildmon said he will persist in his campaign to keep exhibitors from showing NC-17 rated films by asking supporters to petition local movie theaters and pressure newspapers to refuse ads for NC-17 pics. Asked if he plans to target other vidstore chains, Wildmon added, “That remains to be seen.”

Michael Hudson, v.p. of People for the American Way, a civil liberties group, said the Blockbuster decision sends a chilling message to all videostores and to the media as a whole.

“We were hoping they wouldn’t cave in,” said Hudson. “The only thing we can do is publicize this as much as possible, hoping millions of Americans can make their voices heard so an extreme group can’t dictate the marketplace.”

In separate news, Joseph Baczko will assume the duties of president and chief operating officer of Blockbuster effective Feb. 15. He also becomes a director of the company. The appointment follows the announced resignation of director and president Luigi Salvaneschi, who retires Feb. 1.

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