Hollywood catches hell from hill

Execs, D.C. clash on hearings invites

The Senate hearings on entertainment marketing quickly became a comedy of manners Wednesday.

The visibly angry Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) slammed Hollywood execs for being so ill-mannered as to blow off his hearings. Hollywood execs, meanwhile, said the senator showed his absence of manners by inviting them Friday night to show up on short notice without ever having had time to study the report. A spokesman for one of the studios, in fact, said no invitation to appear was ever received.

“We never received any communication about this morning’s hearing,” DreamWorks spokesman Andy Spahn said.

Studio spokesmen suggested that the invitations to the hearing were given out too hastily, without providing execs proper time to readjust their hectic schedules; at least two studio toppers were traveling in Europe, they noted.

Meanwhile, McCain demanded that DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg and seven other Hollywood execs appear at the next committee hearing in two weeks.

“If, in fact, the senator and the committee do contact us, we will consider the invitation,” Spahn said.

In addition to Katzenberg, those listed on a committee agenda for the Wednesday hearing as either declining or not responding also included Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman John Calley, Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing, Warner Bros. chairman Barry Meyer, MGM Pictures president Michael Nathanson, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos.

McCain said other execs from entertainment congloms also would be sought for a Sept. 27 hearing. Those were Disney chairman Michael Eisner; Sumner Redstone, chairman of Paramount parent Viacom; Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox parent News Corp.; Gerald Levin, chairman of Warner parent Time Warner; and Edgar Bronfman Jr., chief of Universal parent Seagram.

Disney spokesman John Dreyer said the studio “definitely will be sending a senior executive” to the next youth violence hearing. A Seagram spokeswoman declined comment, and reps of the others weren’t immediately available.

Wednesday’s committee session focused on a recent Federal Trade Commission report that claims the entertainment industry undermines its own rating systems by using ads to lure young audiences to entertainment featuring mature themes and content.

“Their hubris is stunning and serves to underscore the lack of corporate responsibility so strikingly apparent in this report,” McCain said of the absence of Hollywood execs at the hearing.

Throughout the day, peeved lawmakers referred repeatedly to the absence of studio heads.

Not even politically savvy Motion Picture Assn. of America president Jack Valenti could assuage McCain. Valenti told the committee that studio heads sought for Wednesday’s hearing received notice only Friday and said those specifically asked to testify were either out of the country or on important business.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Republican VP hopeful Dick Cheney, pointed out that Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein wasn’t too busy to host a Hollywood fund-raiser this week.

A spokesman for Miramax found it odd that no studio exec’s schedule for the remainder of the week was called into question except Weinstein, who is co-hosting a Democratic fund-raiser.

The spokesman also pointed out that Weinstein and Miramax, along with parent Disney, had voluntarily taken the lead Tuesday to create stronger guidelines for marketing before a single word of testimony or the hearing on Wednesday (Daily Variety, Sept. 13).

A Universal spokeswoman said the studio was sticking by a statement issued when Snider canceled a planned trip to testify before the committee: “(I)t would be inappropriate for her to be the only studio head speaking for the motion picture industry,” the studio had stated. It further suggested that “if there is an industry panel in the future, we will be there.”

A spokeswoman said Sony Pictures Entertainment co-president Mel Harris will attend the next hearing. The spokeswoman said SPE topper Calley was traveling when his office received an invite late Friday, and that the studio’s media relations office was fielding calls from a reporter about a McCain press release that evening.

Warner’s Meyer was out of the country when the studio received an invitation Friday to appear before this week’s committee hearing, a spokeswoman said. The studio will send Alan Horn, Warner Bros. president and chief operating officer, to the next committee hearing, she said.

MGM spokesman Craig Parsons said Nathanson “was unavailable on short notice due to prior commitments.”

Parsons said he couldn’t say for sure whether Nathanson would go to the next hearing but noted, “We have stated our intent to cooperate with the committee.”

(Pamela McClintock, Charles Lyons and Claude Brodesser contributed to this report.)

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