Hollywood studios are considering plans to bring new members into the MPAA along with other changes to revamp the organization, which is supported largely by hefty dues from its six major-studio member companies, studio and lobbying sources confirmed on Thursday.
Being discussed is the possibility of bringing in new members from other areas, like companies that specialize in producing TV shows for basic cable and digital platforms. A studio source described the talks as still in the early stages, with no concrete proposal on the table.
The New York Times reported Thursday that significant changes were under discussion, fueled by some studio concerns that the industry’s chief trade association needed to reflect changes in the marketplace, as studio parent companies see ever greater returns in areas like basic cable and the future in digital platforms. There’s also been concern over what studios are getting for their fees, according to studio sources. The six member companies paid almost $53 million in membership dues in 2013, according to tax filings with the IRS.
A studio source said that discussions of a revamp “accelerated a bit” after the Sony hacking incident in December. Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton expressed his displeasure on CNN that other studios did not publicly rally as his company faced one of the worst corporate data breaches in history. “This is a moment where you would expect the industry to rally around and support you,” Lynton said. According to the New York Times and other sources, Lynton even considered pulling Sony’s membership from the MPAA, although he ultimately decided against it.
Sony’s dissatisfaction with some aspects of trade association lobbying predated the hack, sources said. Sony pushed for a provision in last year’s expansion of California’s film and TV tax incentives that would have allowed it to benefit from a tax credit even if it did not report any taxable income in the state, but a showbiz coalition that included the MPAA that was lobbying Sacramento for the legislation declined to pursue it in the final draft, according to sources.
A spokeswoman for Sony had no comment.
Although he tried to get other studios to sign a letter of support for Sony, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd last month acknowledged that he “should have been more vocal” in responding to the hacking incident and its implications for free speech and data security. A challenge for Dodd, his predecessor Dan Glickman and even to the late Jack Valenti, the legendary longtime chief of the MPAA who retired in 2004, was achieving consensus among the studios, particularly as the priorities of their parent companies diverged.
Also under discussion is what to do about the MPAA headquarters, in a plum location on Eye Street just blocks away from the White House. Under consideration is whether to upgrade the building, named for Valenti, and how to find ways to bring in more revenue, perhaps through other tenants.