Date: 28th September 2000

Mr Mogul Goes To Washington

Top studio film executives failed to put up a united front Wednesday as they confronted angry U.S. senators who charged them with intentionally marketing violent movies to children.

Four studio execs, representing Disney, DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., insisted that they had already begun taking steps to stop such practices, acknowledging that their previous marketing strategies were inappropriate. "There have been times when we allowed competitive zeal to overwhelm sound judgment," Disney president Robert Iger admitted during his testimony.

But executives from MGM, Paramount, Sony and Universal expressed reluctance to reply positively to Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain's repeated question, "Will you or will you not market movies rated R to children under 17?" Universal chairman Stacey Snider observed that there were many R-rated films that are "suitable for mature teenagers to see with their parents." MGM vice chairman Chris McGurk noted that his studio is producing two R-rated films set during World War II that "could be of great value to mature teens."

Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Friedman argued that each film should be judged on its own merit. None of the execs would agree to impose sanctions against exhibitors who failed to enforce movie ratings. For their part, the senators expressed doubt about new studio policies to restrict marketing practices and to provide additional information about R-rated product to parents. McCain said that the policies were "full of loopholes," while Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas warned, "I am sending a signal across the bow that if you don't try to make this really work that you are going to see some kind of legislation because parents are throwing up their hands in frustration."

The hearings took place only days after two R-rated horror films, Urban Legends: The Final Cut and The Exorcist, both attracting a sizable teen audience despite their ratings, became Hollywood's biggest weekend moneymakers.

Source: Studio Briefing