After failing to recognize actors of color at this year’s Oscars, Hollywood was sharply criticized for not offering enough opportunities to minorities.
But Motion Picture Association of America chief Chris Dodd told an audience of theater owners at CinemaCon on Tuesday that the entertainment industry is taking steps to better reflect America’s multicultural makeup in its hiring processes, and in the kinds of movies and shows it makes.
“We can and must do a better job,” Dodd said, while saying the business has taken “healthy, productive steps to address the issue of diversity.”
He went on to say that studios should make more movies that provoke debate about social issues, citing 1947’s “Gentleman’s Agreement” as an example of the kind of movies that Hollywood should continue making.
“The film community has historically been a leader in addressing challenging issue … we have told good and entertaining stories, but we’ve also told hard truths,” said Dodd.
As head of the MPAA, Dodd, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut, is the movie business’s top lobbyist, tasked with making its case on issues such as piracy to legislators in Washington, D.C. His remarks came at CinemaCon, an annual exhibition industry trade show taking place this week in Las Vegas.
With the box office reaching a record $38.3 billion in 2015, Dodd said that the movie industry was well positioned to continue to thrive, despite challenges from digital forms of entertainment.
“The state of our industry is not only strong, but it has never been stronger. … Some reports of the death of movies have been greatly exaggerated, to put it mildly,” said Dodd.
He dismissed claims that online entertainment was cannibalizing the theatrical experience as “noisy suggestions.”
“In the midst of digital revolution, the cinema still remains the premiere way to experience our films,” said Dodd. “It’s the best experience, it’s in your theaters. We need to say that over and over and over again.”
Dodd said that piracy continues to be a major problem for the theatrical film business.
There was a growth of 8% in the total number of screens worldwide to 152,000, and China continued to add 16 or more new movie screens a day, the MPAA chief said.
But even more growth would have been possible without piracy, Dodd said. He said that, in the U.S. alone, the elimination of piracy would have added $1.5 billion to the box office last year. “The losses from piracy don’t just hurt big blockbusters and the megaplexes,” Dodd said. “They do massive damage to smaller, more diverse films around the world.”