AMC pushes envelope

Airing of two unedited 'R' pix angers cable ops

AMC showed the unedited R-rated versions of “Apocalypse Now” and “The Boys in Company C” on Saturday night and some cable operators are hopping mad.

“AMC does not have the right to show uncut R-rated movies on basic cable,” said Jedd Palmer, senior VP of programming for Media One (formerly Continental), the third-largest cable operator in the U.S. “That’s totally inappropriate.”

Palmer said he’s particularly upset because AMC didn’t give any advance warning of the change in policy for that one night.

David Intrator, VP of programming for Marcus Cable, a top-10 multi-system cable operator, said, “There are a lot of fringe people out there who want to legislate morality and are quick to complain” about violence and foul language on basic cable.

Intrator said cable operators are already under a microscope in the U.S. Congress because of rate hikes to subscribers: The last thing systems want is bad publicity because one of their basic-cable networks scheduled war movies laced with profanity and steeped in gut-wrenching violence.

Preservation, not provocation

In response, David Sehring, senior VP of acquisitions for AMC, said the network’s slotting of the original R-rated editions of “Apocalypse” and “Company C” was “tied to our efforts in film preservation. We’re not trying to challenge the system and you won’t see us starting to run films loaded with four-letter words. We’re careful about our content.” He added that AMC posted a number of parental advisories to warn subscribers about the unvarnished movies about to be shown.

But Palmer said film exhibition is a different animal from film preservation. If executives for Rainbow Programming Holdings, the parent company of AMC, “want to show R-rated movies uncut, they’ve got the Independent Film Channel and World Cinema as outlets.”

These two Rainbow-owned networks are mini-pay channels that most operators sell a la carte or place on tiers, which subscribers have to pay extra money to get. The pay part puts IFC and World Cinema on a level similar to HBO and Showtime, which regularly schedule unedited R-rated movies.

One irony to the violent reaction of some cable operators to AMC’s adventurous scheduling is that no one at Rainbow Programming and none of the half-dozen or so cable operators contacted by Variety could cite even one angry phone call or e-mail message from any cable subscriber over the R-rated showings of “Apocalypse” or “Company C.”