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MPAA Sticks With 'Screener' Ban

October 10, 2003|Lorenza Munoz and John Horn | Times Staff Writers

Despite a tidal wave of criticism from many in Hollywood, the Motion Picture Assn. of America will not lift its ban on sending out videocassette and DVD copies, or "screeners," during the film awards season.

A spokesman for MPAA President Jack Valenti issued a terse statement Thursday in response to a Wednesday morning conference call between Valenti and representatives of three studio subsidiaries in which they discussed possible alternatives to the ban.

"Jack Valenti has had conversations with individuals and several groups on the subject of the new screener policy," read the statement. "He welcomes the exchange of thoughts and ideas on the critical issue of combating piracy. That said, the screener policy remains as it was originally announced."

The creative community's backlash against the MPAA's edict continued, however.

More than 140 directors signed an open letter to Valenti, to appear as an ad in today's Variety. The letter, which includes high-profile industry names such as Jonathan Demme, Nora Ephron, Jodie Foster and Martin Scorsese, argues that the "MPAA decision to ban screeners irreparably damages the chances" of smaller, creative risk-taking films.

At least six of the directors who signed the letter have current or upcoming movies that they say will be hurt by the ban, including Robert Altman's "The Company," Catherine Hardwicke's "Thirteen," Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," Peter Hedges' "Pieces of April" and Jim Sheridan's "In America."

The letter also hints at possible defiance of the ban, which is voluntary.

"It has been said that we in the film industry are honor-bound to go along with this ban," the letter reads. "We believe that as filmmakers, we are honor-bound to oppose it. We ask that the MPAA repeal its decision immediately."

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