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Jack Valenti

From Academic Kids

Jack Joseph Valenti (born September 5, 1921) was "special assistant" to Lyndon Johnson's White House. In 1966, he resigned and became the president of the Motion Picture Association of America. During his tenure there, he was generally regarded as one of the most influential pro-copyright lobbyists in the world. His salary in 2004 was reported to be $1.35 million, which made him the seventh-highest paid Washington trade group chief, according to the National Journal.

In 1968, Mr. Valenti created the MPAA movie "rating system." The system was initially comprised of four distinct ratings: G, M, R and X. The M rating would soon be replaced by GP (later changed to PG). The X rating immediately proved troublesome as adult dramas such as Midnight Cowboy were placed into the same categories as hard and soft-core pornographic movies such as Deep Throat (movie). The MPAA did not possess a copyright for the X rating and did not control the content of these films. In 1990 the NC-17 rating was introduced to provide an 'art house' X rating for 'legitimate' adult oriented drama. The PG-13 rating was added in 1984 to provide a greater range of distinction for audiences. The system that Valenti instituted in 1968 eventually proved to be effective in reversing negative trends in box office revenue for the major Hollywood studios. The MPAA rating system allowed for studios to explore more commericially successful, albeit 'sinful,' themes.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mr. Valenti became notorious for his colorful attacks on the Sony Betamax VCR, which the MPAA feared would devastate the movie industry. He famously told a Congressional panel in 1982, "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." Despite Mr. Valenti's prediction, the home video market created by the VCR ultimately came to be the mainstay of movie studio revenues throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, until the DVD displaced the VCR in the American living room.

In 2003, he found himself at the center of the so-called screener debate, as the MPAA barred studios and many independent producers from sending screener copies of their films to critics and voters in various awards shows. Under mounting industry pressure, Valenti conceded a small victory to pro-screener forces to allow screeners to be sent out to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voting members only on the condition that voters sign an extensive contract agreeing not to distribute their copy. This lead to further outcry from film critics, producers, non-voting Academy members (legendary agent Ed Limato resigned his Academy membership over the issue) and other award panels.

In August 2004, Valenti, then 82 years old, retired and was replaced by Dan Glickman.

Books by Jack Valenti

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