Valenti Departing MPAA

Jack Valenti has officially announced the end of his tenure as president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The silver-haired 82-year-old pitchman carved his niche in entertainment industry history as the originator of the movie rating system. He also fought hard against the VCR, a device he likened to "the Boston Strangler." In recent years, Valenti concentrated on a campaign against piracy—not only the wholesale industrial variety, but against small scale copying by movie fans for personal use, an effort that has not endeared him to the civil libertarian element among home entertainment enthusiasts.

Although he will continue to oversee the movie rating system he initiated in 1968, Valenti will step down September 1 from his day-to-day duties as head of the MPAA, an association he joined 1966, after servibg as an aide to President Lyndon Johnson. Stepping into his rather large shoes will be another Washington insider, Dan Glickman, who has sworn to continue the Valenti tradition of burnishing Hollywood's big egos and winning bipartisan support in Washington to insure that the film industry survives and thrives. "I've told Dan his number one priority is to make sure the American motion picture is protected," Valenti mentioned. During Valenti's tenure, US film studios saw their annual revenue grow from $1.26 billion to $41.2 billion.

A former congressman from Kansas and agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, the 59-year-old Glickman is well connected in both Washington and Hollywood—his son Jonathan is a film producer and partner at Spyglass Entertainment. Glickman's wife Rhonda is former staff director of the Congressional Arts Caucus. Glickman said, "It'll be important for me to reach out to both parties, but especially Republicans on Capitol Hill, so they're comfortable that, in fact, this is not some platform for partisan activity."

One of the MPAA's most critical concerns at the moment is preventing a "movie Napster" in which fans would swap high-quality copies of favorite films over the Internet. The easygoing, self-deprecating Glickman said he wouldn't hesitate to play hardball against pirates, even if that meant launching mass lawsuits against them as the music industry has. Former Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) chief executive Hilary Rosen said she thought Glickman was a great choice as the new MPAA president, one who would be "great diplomat in the Valenti tradition."

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) president and CEO Gary Shapiro described Valenti as "a true living legend . . . He has left an indelible mark on all with whom he has worked. Everywhere he went, Jack brought a bit of Hollywood glamour to often-staid Washington. While he can celebrate many great achievements during his tenure at the MPAA, his greatest legacy may lie in providing critical leadership as the motion picture industry moved from the analog into the digital era. Even when we have been engaged in the most heated of policy debates, I have always respected Jack's passion for the industry he has represented, his courtesy, his intelligence, his wit and, of course, his legendary charm.

"In many ways, Jack stands as the stick against which all other association heads measure ourselves. All of us will miss Jack—we will miss his dedication to cause, his love for this town, his respect for the political institutions, his eloquence, his seductive Texas drawl and his fabulous stories about Washington and Hollywood. On a personal note, I'll miss his friendship and his mentoring."

Speaking of Glickman, Shapiro was equally magnanimous. "Even as we bid a sad farewell to Jack, we welcome Dan Glickman to the trade association community. Secretary Glickman brings a long and distinguished career in public service to the MPAA. I look forward to working with him as our mutual industries continue to transition into the digital age. I remain optimistic that together we can identify and support solutions that protect the valuable intellectual property created by the MPAA's members while preserving the home recording and fair use rights enjoyed by movie lovers everywhere and the ability of technology companies to innovate and create exciting new products and technologies."