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The legacy question

Variety editorial

After his long and distinguished service to the film industry, it seems a shame that the contentious issue of the ban on Oscar screeners could be Jack Valenti’s lasting legacy.

Whatever impact the ban may ultimately have on curbing piracy, its immediate effect has been to polarize the movie biz, setting the creative community against the studios.

As head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Valenti clearly implemented the wishes of the major companies, led by Warners and Disney, in championing the ban. There was apparently little advanced dialogue with the independents or with the creative community and hence little in the way of anticipation of the outcry which has ensued.

Now, however, Valenti has a chance to salvage the situation by coming up with some sort of compromise. Perhaps videos, appropriately coded and dispatched, could be sent solely to Academy voters. Or the MPAA could make the ban voluntary, so that the niche labels within the studio fold could put out their screeners, while more commercial titles like “Lord of the Rings” and “The Last Samurai” could remain off-limits.

Since the studios have made the first moves toward eventually replacing the 80-year-old Valenti, it would be a shame to see his legacy sullied by this divisive issue.

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