Valenti aims to make up with Europe

A kinder, gentler Jack Valenti late last week brought his traveling diplomacy show to the Berlin Film Festival, where he did his best to patch up differences with the European entertainment biz after last year’s nasty dispute over trade policy.

Quoting Goethe and declaring that “GATT is gone” to a packed press conference Saturday, the Motion Picture Assn. of America president asserted that he and the major Hollywood studios “have no objection to quotas” on U.S. product imported to Europe, or to subsidies paid to Euro filmmakers.

“If there were sour feelings in the past over GATT, let’s get it behind us,” he said. “Whatever the rules of the game any countryinserts, we’ll live by them.”

The General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade, a far-reaching treaty to open markets around the world, at the last minute excluded audiovisual products from the pact after strong objections from the Europeans, particularly the French. At the extreme, they claimed that eliminating quotas and subsidies would mean the virtual destruction of European culture by cheap U.S. product.

Valenti’s new stance toward Europe, which he debuted at last week’s Monte Carlo TV fest, was met with some skepticism by journalists in Berlin. But the veteran lobbyist dismissed his own heated remarks on GATT from last year — quoted back to him at the press conference — by saying that he was only trying “to attract the attention of the Congress … Every now and then I rise to hyperbole.”

In Berlin, Valenti was the model of good feelings. Saluted briefly Thursday at the opening-night screening of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha,” then the guest of honor at a lunch hosted Friday by fest director Moritz de Hadeln, then working the crowd at a reception organized by American ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Valenti never missed an opportunity to tell festgoers how much Hollywood loves them.

“Speaking for the American industry, we’re looking for joint ventures, co-productions, new talent,” he told the press conference. “Retribution is a word that has been deleted from my lexicon.”

When asked why European films get such limited distribution in the U.S., Valenti repeated what he said at the recent Monte Carlo TV Market: European film companies should buy a 500- to 700-screen U.S. theater chain and “program it yourself, learn about the U.S. market.”

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