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I was re-watching Stephen King's 1408 (2007) this week and remembered an old question of mine:

The first time I saw this movie, was on TNT (Brazil), and I thought it was an amazing movie because I saw it with the alternate ending where Mike (John Cusack) dies and meets his daughter as a ghost in the burnt room. However, some time later, I caught the movie in another channel, and wanted to show it to my brother, however, to my surprise, it had a terrible ending (IMO), where he lives and the detective hears his tape (also he sees Mike's ghost). I hear this movie has four, maybe more, alternate endings.

So my question here is:

Is the TV free to pick whatever alternate ending it wants to air? It was a special case with this movie? I sincerely do not remember catching different endings commonly like that.

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  • I liked this question better when I first misread it as Who the right to end a show from airing. (i.e. pull the plug on a series) Aug 10 '17 at 19:24
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    @JasonPSallinger Haha... That is also a good question. But I think I could probably find that answer easier. As I usually do at least a quick research on the topic before asking.
    – LeonX
    Aug 10 '17 at 19:28
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    I expect it's something along the line of the studio chooses which version(s) of a movie to make available for sale to theatres/tv stations, and then the theatre/station can choose, from among those version(s) available, which they will purchase the right to air. Most films probably only have one version, of course. But since this movie deliberately filmed multiple endings, maybe they did some sort of lottery distribution system? I'm interested to see what answers come. Good question!
    – Steve-O
    Aug 11 '17 at 0:41
  • @Steve-O Its a good theory, although I would find it kind of weird that every different channel could give a different perspective to the same movie depending on which version they bought. I seriously have already seen this movie with three different endings on TV and each of them gave a very different tone to the movie. Watching this movie on TV actually is like lottery.
    – LeonX
    Aug 11 '17 at 12:07
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Sometimes more than one ending is given, for reasons of country by country laws, or TV censorship.

Which ending a movie gets is also sometimes the subject of ferocious legal battles, often between the director and the studio. For example Terry Gilliam's brilliant film "Brazil" was taken away from him (legally), recut and given an awful "feel-good" ending because the studio thought his cut was "too depressing." Gilliam's version was subsequently released after some fighting and received much better reviews.

The answer to that question is "no." TV stations do not get to decide which endings to show. That would run afoul of their contract with the studio, the distributor and probably the Directors Guild of America. If they want to show "Movie X" they show the version they signed up to show.

For a detailed look at some of the behind-the-scenes wrangling, read the book "Final Cut" by Stephen Bach, which details how the film "Heaven's Gate" destroyed the United Artists studio financially and effectively ended director Michael Cimino's career.

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In general, I would say it depends on the country where it's being viewed, as societal as well as government issues could influence such a decision. Different cultures have different expectations, superstitions, what-have-you.

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    This seems like a guess, not an researched or supported answer.
    – T.J.L.
    Jan 31 '18 at 14:39

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