The video-rental giant has announced that it is going to start labeling new movies that have terrorist themes as service to customers in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
"We know that there is heightened sensitivity to terrorist themes right now. On the other hand, we do not want to pull product from our stores," reads a statement from Blockbuster chairman and CEO John Antioco.
The first film to receive the tag will be the Warner Bros. action thriller Swordfish, which hits video stores October 30. The film stars John Travolta as a master spy hired by the CIA, who coerces a computer hacker into helping him steal billions in unused government funds to finance a covert war against international terrorism.
A placard placed below the rental will read: "In light of the events of September 11, please note this product contains scenes that may be considered disturbing to some viewers."
The sign will also include the film's rating, which in Swordfish's case, is rated R for violence.
If the signage wasn't bad enough for Warners, Blockbuster also says it plans to reduce its order of DVD and VHS copies Swordfish by 30 percent, because of an expected downturn in rentals in the wake of the attacks. In other words, instead of averaging 100 copies per store like other new releases, there will only be 60 to 70 units for customers to rent or buy.
The cut in Swordfish stock and the warning labels sounds fishy to Warners execs. Although a studio rep wouldn't comment on the Blockbuster move, one unnamed exec groused to the Hollywood Reporter, "Why does Swordfish, that has a release date five weeks away, get this treatment, and nothing else in the store [does]?"
Indeed, the labeling won't affect older titles such as 20th Century Fox's Die Hard and The Siege. Rentals of those films, which involve the dreaded "T" word, have skyrocketed following the disaster.
In fact, total spending nationwide for VHS and DVD rentals for the week ended Sunday jumped to $144.5 million, up 26 percent from the same time last year, as millions of Americans found comfort in front of the tube following the attacks.
That's on top of the 30 percent gain in video rentals for the week ending September 16.
And we haven't exactly been loading up on light comedies, either. Aside from the aforementioned flicks, a few other doom-and-gloom, end-of-the-world films have jumped up the charts.
Nostradamus, a documentary about the legendary prophecies of one of the Middle Ages most famous fortune tellers (who, if you believe the email, has been on a roll lately), re-entered the Top 1,000 VHS rankings. It placed at number 231 the week of the attacks and 255 last week, according to statistics from the Video Software Dealears Association. Another documentary on Nostradamus, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, narrated by Orson Welles, has also done well on the rental charts, landing at 734 last week. Steven Seagal's Under Seige and Independence Day have also seen substantial gains.