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CinemaCon 2012: Sen. Chris Dodd’s Opening Remarks: ‘A Time of Transformative Change’

CinemaCon 2012: Sen. Chris Dodd's Opening Remarks: 'A Time of Transformative Change'

This speech was given by Sen. Chris Dodd (Chairman and CEO, MPAA) on Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at CinemaCon 2012 and is reprinted here with his permission.

Thank you, Nora (Dashwood), for that nice introduction.  And thank you, John (Fithian) for being such a good partner and friend.

I had the privilege of speaking at CinemaCon last year, on what was just my ninth day as Chairman and CEO of the MPAA.  What a year it’s been!

It has been challenging, as much as any year in the MPAA’s 90-year history. But there is also reason for great optimism and excitement.

New technologies, new business models, new opportunities – this is a time of transformative change, and it is critical in my view that the MPAA and NATO engage the future, together.

In the midst of all this, one thing hasn’t changed.  The production and exhibition industries cannot succeed – cannot survive – without each other.

Traditionally, so called disruptive innovations – radio, TV, the VCR — inspired fear among filmmakers and exhibitors.

In 1982, my dear friend and longtime iconic leader of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, famously said that the VCR was like the Boston Strangler to our industry.

Among his many talents, Jack was also colorful.

Well, the point is, we are, three decades later, not only alive but thriving.

In fact, similar dire predictions for our industry occurred with the arrival of sound, video, and of course television. In each and every case, these new technologies not only did not threaten our industry – they enhanced it.

While this anxiety about change has at times marked our past, this is not how we are approaching our future.

The film industry – home to some of the world’s most inspiring visionaries and innovators – embraces the future, its innovations and its challenges.

It is important to remember that filmmaking itself was originally, and remains today, a “disruptive technology.”

I’m reminded of that fact every day as I travel and meet the men and women who make movies and who never tire of honing and improving their craft.

Their imagination, their dedication, their creativity and innovation is what has ensured that “going to the movies” at one of your spectacular theaters, is still the most popular past time in the United States.

Not that this audience needs proof of that statement, but just in case there may be some doubters in our midst, later this morning, you will see the hard evidence in the reel of movies that have made more than $100 million each at the box office.

You are also going to see some eye-popping new creative technologies in the Warner Bros. presentation:
•    Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp as the vampire Barnabas Collins;
•    Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises with Christian Bale as Batman
•    And Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

You saw similar examples of not just new technology but the creative interplay between cutting edge visuals and resonant storytelling, unveiled by Paramount and DreamWorks Animation.

In the coming days, you will see it again and again – the marriage of technological wizardry and great storytelling that is Hollywood’s hallmark, from Walt Disney, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, and Universal, which like Paramount is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

We are not just improving and reimagining our product.  We are also evolving our business model, experimenting with new offerings that will allow consumers to purchase the content they want to see, and view it on the platforms they want to use, at a price that’s right for them.

That in no way changes the simple fact that the best way to see our movies is in your theaters, in the dark, on the big screen. I believe that very passionately – but more importantly – the studios I represent do as well.

This much is true: our greatest movies were and are made for your theaters, evoking the collective wonder, emotion, and joy that only comes in that setting.

Martin Scorsese, who you will hear from later this week, shares that passion.

He will tell you how the big screens of his Little Italy were his wondrous escape growing up.

Like Martin Scorsese, all the great filmmakers share this view.

Today, screens of all sizes are part of our lives. And while the iPad is revolutionary technology – even for watching movies– it will never recreate the magic of the big screen.

It’s our task to show people what films can do on all of those screens,  but we must also remind them of that singular and unrivaled experience that can only happen in your theaters.

I want to quote a survey released just this week by the IBM Institute for Business Value: “The much heralded ‘connected consumer era’ is no longer on the way; it has arrived. Today’s connected consumers are empowered, demanding instant access to personalized content on their own terms.”

This new age of the connected consumer is here, and so we must adapt.

Our business has become much more than simply making a great movie and inviting our customers to a theater.

We need to make the case – both to the new, younger “connected consumers,” and to others who wonder if the movie-going experience remains something special, something to be savored and enjoyed, something so innovative and creative that it cannot be duplicated at home no matter how many boxes they have.

I want to applaud NATO for taking this challenge head-on, scheduling sessions at CinemaCon on connecting with today’s movie-going audience through social networking, on enhancing your food concessions through digital technology and other means, and on using your theaters to offer alternative content like ballet and prize-fighting that can benefit from the immediacy of the big screen and surround sound.

Thanks to our great teamwork, we’ve had very good news at the box office.

Over the past five years, North American box office revenues are up six percent.

Last year’s total worldwide revenue of $32.6 billion represented yet another record high.

And our recent agreement with the Chinese government will open that market of 1.3 billion people to more American films.

Those international ticket sales will fund more production around the world, which means more and better movies for all audiences including, of course, American audiences.

This year has already begun with a tremendous start: as of April 19 – the box office was up 17 percent over the same period last year.

And we have an incredible slate of movies coming up this summer, films that combine the best of what’s old and what’s new.

In films like The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battleship and GI Joe: Retaliation, and so many others — our filmmakers will put your audio and video upgrades to good use, dazzling audiences with their use of new technology.

But make no mistake: these exciting new productions are not just examples of creative technology.

These films are timeless tales filled with adventure and romance, laughter and thrills.

Indeed, some of our biggest successes have come when we placed a fresh spin on familiar and beloved themes.

Just consider the productions coming soon to a theater near you: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby.  Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman.  Or, in four words: Abraham Lincoln…Vampire Hunter.

There of course remains much room for growth in our industry.  For example: Hispanics make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent more than one quarter of our movie-going audience.

I am confident we can do a better job of serving this growing population with themes that resonate strongly with them.

But as all of you are aware, we have challenges as well.

One third of the public in the U.S. and in Canada no longer goes to the movies.   We need to bring them back.

I firmly believe that with our artistic and commercial vision and your stewardship of the great movie-going tradition – we can do it.

I want to spend the remaining moments of my remarks on the issue of protecting the creative content of the film industry.

This issue is not only the lifeblood of our production industry – it is the lifeblood of yours as well, and as such, you are helping even more to redouble our efforts, joining many others beyond the audio/visual industries whose intellectual property is at risk.

At the outset, I want to dispense with the conventional wisdom that in order to protect our content we must be at war with the technology industry.

In fact, our two industries, content and technology, have far more in common than some have argued.

Some of the world’s most brilliant technologists work in the audio/visual industry, devising new ways to bring artists’ imaginations to life.

And, conversely, some of the world’s foremost creative geniuses work in the tech industry, designing and building products that are as beautiful as they are useful – remember Steve Jobs.

The truth is that neither the content nor the technology industries could survive without strong protections for intellectual property.

Many of you are familiar with how the name Hollywood became synonymous with the birth of the American film industry.  It was in Jacob Stern’s horse barn, at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, the story goes, that Cecil B. DeMille screened the first full length feature film 100 years ago.

Well, when it comes to the tech sector, replace “Jacob Stern’s horse barn” with “Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room” at Harvard, and you have almost the same story with the birth of Facebook.

The same type of story could also be told for the story of Steve Jobs’ creation of Apple, or Bill Gates’ creation of Microsoft.

In these and countless other examples throughout our history, the ability to give birth to an idea and convert it into economic success, whether it is the content of a film or the technology of the internet, depends on copyright and patent protection.

We are a nation of ideas with an economy of creators and producers.  But this will not continue if creators and makers cannot protect the ownership of their creations and production – whether a movie or a smartphone app.

If protecting intellectual property results in an uninformed brawl between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, both sides will suffer – but more importantly, so will millions of Americans who rely on these intellectual property industries for their jobs, and on the consumers whose lives have been enriched by their efforts.

I am committed to doing all I can to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the protection of intellectual property.

But, more importantly, the leaders of the content industry are committed as well – and I am confident many in the tech community are similarly prepared to do their part as well.

At the TED conference in Long Beach, California I spoke with technologists who – while acknowledging concerns – agreed that content theft is a serious problem.

And at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, even on panels where voices from the tech sector dominated, there was a common understanding that intellectual property must be protected.

You, the members of NATO understand this.

You’ve been a strong ally in protecting our films. I am told that the number of illegal video camcords of movies in theaters is down 50 percent since 2007.  Almost all of this is due to your vigilance.

I urge you to continue to be a part of a thoughtful and rational solution to protecting intellectual property.  Your leader, John Fithian, has been a stalwart ally already, and I want to publicly thank him for all he has done.

We continue to promote technology and innovation, in movie-making and in the experience we provide for audiences on screens of all sizes, but most especially on the big ones at your theaters all across the country.

Together we can protect our product, the jobs our industry supports, and the consumers who never cease to delight in the experience we together provide them. 

I thank you again for the honor of spending time with you, for the friendship you have shown me over the last year, and for the great work we will do together for years to come.

And now it is my pleasure to introduce your CEO and President, John Fithian, who will share his thoughts about the state of our industry…

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