Film Exex Keep Confab Dialogue Under Wraps

Major U.S. studio executives and reps of the European film industry sat down again last week to discuss ways in which Hollywood can help bolster the movie business on this side of the Atlantic.

The EU-U.S. Roundtable last met in October in Paris under the auspices of European parliamentarians Mary Banotti and Alan Donnelly and reconvened here Feb. 10.

Three major issues topped the afternoon meeting: distribution, dubbing and training. In an interview prior to the closed-door session, Motion Picture Assn. of America president Jack Valenti said: “The whole subject is what can be done to lift European cinema.”

Valenti rejected the notion that Hollywood, whose blockbusters dominate the box office here, may have little or no interest in helping its competition.

“I’ve said for the last 20 years that a busy market is a good one,” he insisted, arguing that more overall moviegoers would not only boost Euro production, but also raise Hollywood’s revenues.

The roundtable, which included such execs as Columbia Tri-Star’s Tom Manne, MGM’s Jack Gordon and British producer David Puttnam, has taken pains to keep a low profile with the press. Execs either would not comment or did not return calls and a planned statement was never issued. Valenti did invite reporters to a Q&A session scheduled for Feb. 11.

The thorniest issues of cross-pond relations, however, are everywhere but on this roundtable’s declared agenda. Just last week, the European Union stalled over whether its 1989 “Television Without Frontiers” directive should be upheld or revamped to more strictly enforce programming quotas.

German opposition to any tightening of the quotas was clearly expressed by Berlin’s mayor, Eberhard Diepgen. In a speech on opening night of the Berlinale Feb. 9., the Christian Democrat mayor rejected the protectionist position out of hand, saying “A planned economy is no aide to German or European films.”

Valenti, Puttnam and the others are expected to next meet in Cannes during the May film festival.