Studio Heads Pledge Continued Support of MPAA at Intimate Dinner With Chris Dodd (Exclusive)

The former senator sat down with WB’s Kevin Tsujihara, Disney’s Alan Horn and their peers to discuss making changes

Last Updated: February 6, 2015 @ 10:37 PM

Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara and Disney chairman Alan Horn were among the studio heads who pledged their continued support of the Motion Picture Association of America at an intimate dinner with MPAA chairman Christopher Dodd on Thursday night, TheWrap has learned.

The MPAA has represented the interests of the six major Hollywood studios — Disney, Universal, Paramount, Fox, Sony and Warner Bros. — since 1922, and yet, for the first time in its 93-year history, the organization is considering opening its doors to new members, according to an MPAA insider. Along with Tsujihara and Horn, Sony Pictures CEO MIchael Lynton and Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos were in attendance.

The MPAA came under fire in December when it failed to offer public support to Sony Pictures in the immediate wake of the studio’s hacking scandal, when the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy “The Interview” drew the ire of North Korea. Stung by the response, Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton considered withdrawing the studio’s affiliation from the MPAA at the time, though ultimately that didn’t happen.

Instead, Lynton and the other heads of Hollywood’s six major studios convened for an intimate dinner in Los Angeles to sit down with Dodd and discuss what changes the MPAA is willing to make as the landscape of filmmaking evolves. Several insiders said all the studio chiefs agreed to continue their membership in the organization.

While few other concrete measures were decided at the dinner, the guarded gathering was part of an “ongoing conversation” that Dodd plans to have with Hollywood as digital players like Netflix, Amazon and Apple gain importance in the industry, according to a knowledgeable individual. He told The New York Times this week that he was “completely” open to restructuring the organization or other fundamental changes.

Other major companies that are not part of the MPAA include independent studios Lionsgate, Relativity and the Weinstein Company, along with new digital content creators like Netflix. However, Netflix has been approached before about joining the MPAA before and been told that it is a technology rather than a content company, according to an individual with knowledge of the dialogue.

Tsujihara gave a rousing speech at the dinner, according to insiders, though as one of Hollywood’s most powerful leaders, he is known to speak passionately about important issues plaguing the entertainment business as a whole.

While some might question what studios actually get out of being part of the MPAA, the organization plays an important function in Washington as far as Hollywood’s piracy and copyright efforts are concerned. Most moviegoers associate the MPAA with the often-controversial ratings system, but Dodd and his employees play a vital role behind-the-scenes in legislative initiatives that may effect intellectual property and the rights of the creative community.

One key change that the MPAA is considering is lowering the annual $20 million fees that the studios pay to be members of the organization, as it could make up the difference by admitting other members. The MPAA is also weighing whether to move its pricey headquarters in Washington DC.

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