Date: 27th September 2000

NY Times Prints Secret Marketing Docs

Details of the Federal Trade Commission's probe of Hollywood marketing practices were published by the New York Times today, including excerpts from confidential documents of the National Research Group, described by the Times as the studios' dominant market research organization.

In a sidebar article about NRG's work on the sequel to Columbia TriStar's hit I Know What You Did Last Summer, the Times published portions of a letter to the studio, which stated, "Although the original movie was R rated and the sequel will also be R rated, there is evidence to suggest that attendance at the original dipped down to the age of 10. Therefore, it seems to make sense to interview 10- to 11-year-olds as well" as moviegoers between 12 and 24.

Other research documents cited in the Times article indicated that children younger than 16 made up a large part of the test audiences for such R-rated fare as Disney/Hollywood Pictures' Judge Dredd, MGM/UA's Disturbing Behavior, and Disney/Touchstone's Enemy of the State.

In an interview with the Times, Joseph Farrell, co-chairman of NRG, insisted that the company's research methodology is "prescribed by the studios" and maintained that parents are required to accompany children 14 and younger to test screenings. Asked about the FTC's determination that 33 of 44 R-rated films produced between 1995 and 1999 were screened for underage children as young as 9, Farrell replied, "I don't know anything about that." On the eve of a second round of hearings by the Senate Commerce Committee into Hollywood's marketing practices scheduled for today (Wednesday), MPAA chief Jack Valenti also said he was unaware that young children were being recruited for studio test screenings. "I didn't know it was happening," he told the New York Times, adding that the "practice of going to 10- and 12-year-olds is really not acceptable."

At a news conference, Valenti said that the eight major studios had set a "goal of not inappropriately specifically targeting children in its advertising of films rated R for violence" and would no longer include them in focus-group tests unless accompanied by a parent.

Source: Studio Briefing