"What Valenti did very well was to make the MPAA seem bigger than it actually was," said John Feehery, a former MPAA executive who now lobbies for other interests in Washington. "I think Dodd can meet that challenge as well."
Glickman, a former Kansas congressman and Agriculture secretary, wasn't able to. He was well-known and well-liked around Washington but lacked Valenti's stature and strong personality.
The MPAA was further hampered by new congressional ethics rules in 2007 that made it more difficult to lure lawmakers to the MPAA for dinner and private movie screenings.
"There was never any lobbying going on at those but a lot of goodwill being built up, and it made it a lot easier for the MPAA to call and say, 'Did you enjoy the movie?' and go from there," said Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who is a key player on intellectual property issues.
The MPAA continued its screenings under the new ethics rules. To avoid violations, it replaced the sit-down dinners with appetizers for lawmakers and staffers.
But the organization lost some luster, said Leahy, whose attendance at last month's party was his first visit to the MPAA in several years.
"I like Dan Glickman, and everybody brings their own personality, but in this industry you've got to have somebody who really reaches out," Leahy said. "I've traveled around different parts of the world with Chris and he never stops.... He has the energy, but he also has decades of experience here in Washington."
Senate rules prevent Dodd from lobbying his former colleagues for two years. But he said he could still guide the MPAA's efforts in Washington.
His high energy and ready trove of stories recalls Valenti, as does his instant recognition in Washington and ability to turn a phrase. In a recent speech, Dodd coined his own term for illegal viewing of movies online or on pirated DVDs, one of the few issues on which the studios have a united position.
"You can call it what you want: piracy, IP theft, content theft," he told the Media Institute in Washington. "Frankly, I call it looting."
Disney's Bates said the term described the issue perfectly. And he said Dodd was a perfect fit for the MPAA.
"He automatically brings more glitz and stature to the organization," Bates said.