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Studios talk truce on screeners

Call between studio heads, MPAA yields no resolution

There’s guarded optimism for an imminent compromise in the dispute over the awards season screener ban.

While a conference call held Thursday between studio heads and MPAA prexy Jack Valenti yielded no resolution, some participants felt a settlement could be hammered out based on a limited distribution of water-marked videos.

Representatives from all the major studios are understood to have participated in the call initiated at 1:15 PT that lasted well over an hour. No studio specialty division heads took part.

Studio chiefs agreed to meet again to continue talks. Further talks are expected to include encryption and watermarking technology available. The next challenge would be for the studio heads to all agree on a tech company to provide a uniform security procedure.

A separate approach, keyed to a limited release formula — a possible lid of 800 screens — was discussed but ultimately met with skepticim.

In the specialty community the 800 print solution has been informally dubbed “The Sofia Coppola Rule.”

Given the nearly unanimous critical acclaim behind the director’s “Lost in Translation,” that film is understood to be a cause of studio anxiety over major Oscar categories. The Focus Features release went to 882 prints last week, which kills its chances of using screeners as part of an Oscar campaign, should that rule be imposed.

MPAA public affairs spokesman Rich Taylor would not comment on particulars of the meeting but said: “Deliberations are continuing, there will be future conversations. If at some point in time there is something to announce we will make an announcement at that time.”

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