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Family-Friendly Flicks

A new option for parents renting DVDs.
by Tim Drake | Source:
CHERRY VALLEY, Ill. — Parents Leslie and Michael Tuttle understand the difficulty in finding good films for their 8- and 5-year-old sons to watch. They gave up monthly cable service because the job of monitoring content became too daunting.

Up until recently, they depended on movies from their local library or purchasing good films.

“When you’re paying $20-25 per movie, that becomes prohibitive,” said Leslie. “And we couldn’t find the Catholic content we wanted — like saints movies — through the library.”

The Tuttles considered Netflix, but knew that, in perusing it, the company carried a lot of content that wasn’t suitable for the whole family. But then Mrs. Tuttle’s sister e-mailed her about Faith and Family Flix.

“It offers a lot of the documentary videos and saints videos so that we can rent them and see if we want to buy them,” said Leslie. “Our first two films were a documentary on Mother Teresa and a Tom & Jerry cartoon.”

She’s pleased there’s a family-friendly alternative available for those who want to rent movies without supporting a company that promotes soft-core pornography and homosexual films.

That was founder Steve Thomas’ goal in setting up the new business, which went live the last week of November. Thomas said that his company is working with the Dove Foundation for assistance screening the films in their catalog so that they’ll be free of profanity, graphic violence, sex and nudity. The catalog currently has about 1,000 films. As the company broadens its customer base it hopes to increase the catalog to 3,000 and eventually 10,000 films.

“Ninety percent of all titles offered by these big-name companies would be considered morally objectionable by the majority of mainstream Americans,” said Thomas. “Even big-name film producers are getting into the faith-based market: companies like 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, New Line and Disney see the enormous potential.”

Set up similarly to other rent-by-mail companies, Faith and Family Flix allows customers to create queues of their favorite films and rent them from the convenience of their home.

That bypasses one concern that many parents share about renting from their local video store.

“Members have told me they’re hesitant to take their children to the local video stores,” said John Mansel-Pleydell, chief technical officer with the company. “They don’t want their children exposed to the horror images and titles that are displayed for all to see.”

Faith and Family Flix also has a similar fee structure. With the basic rental, families can rent one video at a time and unlimited movies per month, for $9.99 a month.

Netflix describes itself as the largest online movie rental service, providing 7 million members access to more than 90,000 DVD titles.

“Netflix might offer 90,000 titles, but the average family probably wouldn’t be interested in 88,000 of them,” said Thomas.

Critics of Netflix dislike the company’s support of soft-core pornography as well as its homosexual film category, which is displayed prominently on its home page.

Since the advent of online ordering and fulfillment has been made private from start to finish, significant numbers of consumers who watched adult or homosexual films migrated to the service. Many say that Netflix’s support of homosexual, bisexual and transgender-themed films is the reason that they are customers. Montana’s homosexual Out Words magazine features a column titled “How Gay Is Netflix?” providing a monthly review of a homosexual-friendly film offered by the company.

It’s things like that that Faith and Family Flix hopes will drive customers to them.

“We’re not trying to beat Netflix; we’re just trying to offer an alternative,” said Mansel-Pleydell.

Overcoming Lawsuits
Another company that’s trying to offer good alternatives is Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay, Inc. Founded in 2001, the company developed a content-filtering DVD player that is commercially available through electronics stores, such as Best Buy.

The DVD player allows parents the ability to edit out content they find objectionable — such as profanity, graphic violence, sex and nudity — during playback. This is done through the use of uploading filters for particular films into the DVD player using a USB “filter stick.”

In 2002, eight Hollywood movie studios and the Directors Guild of America sued ClearPlay and several other content-editing companies. The lawsuit was aimed primarily at companies such as CleanFilms and CleanFlicks, which sold or rented edited copies of DVDs.

The court deemed such alteration a copyright violation. ClearPlay, however, was cleared of any wrongdoing because its filters work as a feature with a DVD player.

In light of the passage of the federal Family Movie Act of 2005, all claims against ClearPlay were dropped.

“ClearPlay was involved in changing the law,” said Andrea Smith, with Next Phase Communications, who handles public relations for ClearPlay. “The law was changed that allowed their technology to continue.”

The Family Movie Act clarified the copyright act guaranteeing the legality of technology that filters unwanted content in movies in the home. It received substantial support from many family and parenting organizations, including the Parents Television Council, Focus on the Family, Viewer Freedom, and

“This product puts families in control of the content that their children are watching,” said Tim Winter, executive director with the Parents Television Council. “[It] is an excellent resource for concerned parents.

“This is a long-awaited victory,” said Bill Aho, ClearPlay CEO, in 2005. “It has been challenging litigation and we’re happy to put it behind us and move forward. Moms and dads need all the help they can get to protect their kids.”

Economic Morality
From his home in suburban Chicago, Thomas, a cabinet maker and father of nine, is trying to offer parents another resource for help. He said the idea came to him for Faith and Family Flix over the course of the past year.

“We’re always lending movies out to other people,” said Thomas. “So, we decided to do what we’ve always been doing, but on a larger scale.”

Last April, he began researching existing companies. Within two months, he was creating Faith and Family Flix.

He’s no stranger to starting a business.

Thomas and his wife Ginny founded the Vitae Pro-Life Credit Card Corporation several years ago. The bank the card was affiliated with discontinued that program approximately five years ago.

Thomas is working with family-friendly non-profits that might be interested in an affiliate program as a way of raising funds for their organizations. He is talking with such organizations as the Couple to Couple League and to inquire about a possible affiliation.

Even without promotion, his company has already attracted attention from interested families such as the Tuttles. Thomas is convinced that families are eager to support an alternative with their hard-earned dollar.

“We have to ask ourselves hard questions about how we spend our money,” said Thomas. “If you’re not going to rent soft-core pornography or gay and lesbian films, is it moral for us to support companies that do?”

Tim Drake is based in Saint Joseph, Minnesota.
Source: National Catholic Register - January 13-19, 2008 Issue

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