How Airlines Make In-Flight Movies Safe For Viewing

We’re living in the golden age of in-flight movies, and if you’re old enough to recognize the sound of a dial-up modem, you remember how movies were once reserved only for long flights. One movie……for the entire plane……shown on bulky monitors hanging down every 10 rows. Today, however, the in-flight entertainment choices are phenomenal. Thanks to onboard servers and broadband connectivity, you can stream new-release and classic movies, watch TV live, browse music channels, play video games, and read e-books — not only on the seatback screen, but on your own laptop, tablet or smartphone. However, with the explosion of in-flight entertainment choices comes a new twist on an old dilemma. How do you make sure potentially offensive content isn’t thrust into the faces of kids or the unsuspecting passenger in the middle seat? The quick answer is: censorship. For the biggest blockbuster movies, the studios themselves create an “airline version,” which is scrubbed of violence, steamy love scenes, and any references to terrorism or plane crashes. There’s also a booming industry of in-flight entertainment content companies whose job it is to edit and distribute customized versions of Hollywood movies to suit the tastes and taboos of different international markets. For example, preparing entertainment for flights to the Middle East requires weeding out sex, violence and pork. Airlines are a little more lenient when it comes to streaming, relying on the disclaimer at the beginning of the film to warn viewers of the potential for violence, sex, language, etc. Bonus fact: The very first in-flight movie — a newsreel and two cartoons — was shown on Oct. 8, 1929 on a Transcontinental Air Transport Flight. Regular in-flight movie service didn’t begin until the early 1960s, but good luck seeing the screen through all the cigarette smoke!