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MPAA to scale back budget, staff

Org to cut 15% - 20% of operating budget

The dire economy has hit even the industry’s chief lobbying arm, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which has been forced to scale back its budget and staff.

MPAA chairman Dan Glickman said the org faced cuts of 15%-20% of its operating budget, “done largely to reflect the economic conditions of the industry.”

“Fundamentally, the mission of the organization has not changed at all,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources say MPAA’s board, which includes the six member studios, voted to renew Glickman’s contract, although he declined to comment on the details of the pact. He also would not comment on a report on Tuesday that the new contract would extend only through summer 2010, even though he had sought a longer one.

One MPAA board member, who did not want to be identified, insisted that Glickman “enjoys the full support of the MPAA.”

Glickman, a former Kansas congressman who was secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration, nevertheless had big shoes to fill when he joined the MPAA in 2004 given that he succeeded the charismatic Jack Valenti, who headed the org for nearly four decades.

There has been some talk about the MPAA’s mission going forward, particularly as its members face ever more divergent agendas from their conglom parents.

But Glickman cited the org’s spate of successes in securing tax-friendly legislation included as part of last year’s bailout bill, an increase in federal antipiracy resources and the passage of incentives in a number of states, including California earlier this month. An effort to include additional tax measures in the stimulus bill fell victim to Republican efforts to characterize it as a windfall for Hollywood, already enjoying a robust box office.

Glickman declined to specify the number of layoffs, but the org has made cuts from its communications staff and has realigned its international piracy operations. The MPAA has about 160 employees and 40 internationally via the MPA.

“What we are going through is what virtually every trade association in Washington is going through right now,” he said. “Our goal is to maintain our mission, and to do it effectively.”

“We have got to do more with less, and that is what we are going to do.”

Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Barry Meyer said, “I wouldn’t interpret this as a redefining of the MPAA. If anything, we would like a laser-like focus on these particular issues.”

Universal Studios prexy-chief operating officer Ron Meyer said the cutbacks are “reflective of every part of our industry.”

“The MPAA is not in jeopardy,” he said. “I think it is a very, very viable organization. They continue to protect our critical agendas, and they protect our interests in Washington and around the world.”

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