In both his customary NATO/ShoWest annual press breakfast and his state-of-the-industry address yesterday, MPAA president and CEO Jack Valenti staunchly defended the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s ratings board, which has come under attack lately for its NC-17 rating — the subject of anger among some filmmakers, mostly independents.

“Next November will mark the 25th birthday of the ratings,” Valenti said in his state-of-the-industry address. “Nothing lasts that long in a volatile marketplace unless it is providing some worthy benefit for those to whom it aims to serve.”

Asked at the breakfast if he thought the controversial NC-17 rating was working, Valenti replied, “I’m happy with the NC-17 because there isn’t a better way. The rating system has integrity.”

Valenti also told the assembled reporters at the breakfast that he thought the controversy whipped up by distributors over the NC-17 rating was usually a marketing ploy.

“You don’t have enough money for marketing, so you attack the MPAA and the NC-17,” he said. “I’m amazed that this hasn’t been discussed more.”

Valenti admitted the criteria for NC-17 and the old X rating are the same, and was asked why there isn’t an A for adult rating. He replied, “Then we would have to rate a film for quality, giving one type of film an NC-17 and something else an A. This would open the MPAA up to all sorts of lawsuits by filmmakers, who felt they didn’t get the right rating.”

As for rating guidelines, Valenti told the reporters, “If somebody could write guidelines, I would accept them. But it seems that nobody can do it.”

In his address to exhibitors, Valenti continued his defense of the ratings board.

“With all the affection and passion I can summon, I urge you to protect the rating system by enforcing its voluntary restrictions to your theater,” Valenti said. “It is your protection against those who want no ratings of any kind, no parental cautionary warnings, who often use the rating system as a rostrum for ridicule in order to attract public attention, as well as against those who clamor for muzzles on creative voices in this country.”

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