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    Charles Rivkin “State of the Industry” Address at CinemaCon 2024

    • 09.04.2024

    Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Motion Picture Association Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin.

    Hello everyone: As you just heard, preserving the magic of movies is what motivates me to lead the Motion Picture Association every day and attend CinemaCon with you each spring.

    We are in the business of creating experiences:

    Experiences that enrich, engage, and entertain…

    Experiences that grow out of the extraordinary ideas of our creative workforce…

    Experiences that bring audiences together to feel a sense of wonder, community, belonging.

    When you see what this industry conceives, develops, and shows in your theaters, you can’t help but be inspired, captivated, awe-struck.

    And the past year gave us ample opportunities to be amazed all over again.

    We heard a Maestro conduct. We watched a Little Mermaid become a part of our world once more. We saw Spider-Man swing into new dimensions; witnessed another Scorsese masterpiece; and accepted another impossible mission.

    We met an up-and-coming Willy Wonka, followed the latest chapters for the Fast family, and wondered whether fire and water could mix in Elemental.

    And if anyone doubts the blockbuster role cinema plays in igniting our imaginations, fueling our economy, or shaping our public discourse, I have one word for you – a word that I’m pretty sure you’ll hear many times this week: Barbenheimer.

    But make no mistake: people everywhere want to see great stories come alive on the big screen. In fact, in 2023, box office was up 20 percent from the previous year in the U.S. and Canada, and nearly 30 percent abroad.

    Even with that steady recovery, we can’t shy away from the stark challenges of this moment. Nor can we ignore this time of volatility in our industry.

    Yet none of us should fear that uncertainty. After all, we work in a business where unexpected twists can make for an epic story where the unpredictable can breed renewed bursts of creativity.

    We understand the stakes. We recognize the need to do everything possible to ensure the enduring health of cinema.

    And we know that the only way to reach our common goals is by working together – the creative minds who develop the films, the studios who produce them, the union workers who make them, and the theaters who share them with the world.

    As a partner in that cause, the MPA focuses on two pillars: Protecting content and the people who produce it. And by doing so, ensuring the creative forces of this industry can reach even bigger audiences worldwide.

    To make that happen, we need to keep doing what we do best: telling a compelling story.

    For us at the MPA, it’s a story about the impact of filmmaking, why it matters, how it grows economies and unites people. And the audiences for our message tend to be drawn from the ranks of government, business, and more.

    When I head to Capitol Hill in DC or State Capitols throughout the country, for example, I paint a picture of the ways our productions bolster communities: how film and television support 2.74 million American jobs; how production comprises 122,000 businesses; and how our incredible industry boasts a trade surplus with nearly every nation on earth.

    And when I meet with heads of state and leaders in foreign capitals, I set the scene for the kinds of policies that open doors for global production. That preserve the rule of law. That give casts and crews greater freedom to build, write, act, direct, design, edit, and produce our amazing stories.

    Today, our job involves another plotline countering a central threat to the security of workers, audiences, and the economy at large: Widespread, digital piracy.

    Now, I’ve talked about piracy here before. This problem isn’t new. But piracy operations have only grown more nimble, more advanced, and more elusive.

    These enterprises are engaged in insidious forms of theft, breaking laws each time they steal and share protected content.

    These activities are nefarious by any definition, detrimental to our industry by any standard, and dangerous for the rights of creators and consumers by any measure.

    Remember – these aren’t teenagers playing an elaborate prank.

    The perpetrators are real-life mobsters … organized crime syndicates – many of whom engage in child pornography, prostitution, drug trafficking, and other societal ills.

    They operate websites that draw in millions of unsuspecting viewers whose personal data can then fall prey to malware and hackers.

    In short, piracy is clearly not a victimless crime.

    Across the globe, it undermines everyone who works in production – actors, directors, writers, carpenters, craftspeople, and more.

    In the U.S. alone, it steals hundreds of thousands of jobs from workers and tens of billions of dollars from our economy, including more than one billion in theatrical ticket sales.

    Let me repeat that last point: in an average year, online piracy costs your theaters more than one billion dollars at the box office.

    We each have a vested interest in defeating this menace. And meeting this challenge is one of the MPA’s core priorities.

    Two years ago, at CinemaCon, I told you about key tools in this battle.

    First was our Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, or ACE as we call it, which has grown substantially since then and now has nearly 60 members throughout the world – all collaborating with local law enforcement authorities and global cybersecurity experts to identify and investigate illegal piracy operations.

    Second was our Trusted Partner Network, or TPN, which now features almost 1,000 partners – all working to secure content along every step of the journey from script to screen.

    These initiatives are vital – and very effective.

    But this danger continues to evolve – and so must our strategy to defeat it.

    So today, here with you at CinemaCon, I’m announcing the next major phase of this effort: the MPA is going to work with Members of Congress to enact judicial site-blocking legislation here in the United States.

    For anybody unfamiliar with the term, site-blocking is a targeted, legal tactic to disrupt the connection between digital pirates and their intended audience.

    It allows all types of creative industries – film and television, music and book publishers, sports leagues and broadcasters – to request, in court, that internet service providers block access to websites dedicated to sharing illegal, stolen content.

    Let’s be clear: this approach focuses only on sites featuring stolen materials. There are no gray areas here.

    Site-blocking does not impact legitimate businesses or ordinary internet users. To the contrary: it protects them, too.

    And it does so within the bounds of due process, requiring detailed evidence establishing a target’s illegal activities and allowing alleged perpetrators to appear in a court of law.

    This is not an untested concept.

    Site-blocking is a common tool in almost 60 countries, including leading democracies and many of America’s closest allies.

    What key player is missing from that roster?

    Take a look at the map behind me. It’s us!

    There’s no good reason for our glaring absence. No reason beyond a lack of political will, paired with outdated understandings of what site-blocking actually is, how it functions, and who it affects.

    Yet experiences worldwide have now answered these concerns and taught us unmistakable lessons:

    Site-blocking works.

    It dramatically reduces traffic on piracy sites.

    It substantially increases visits to legal sites.

    Simply put, this is a powerful tool to defend what our filmmakers create and what reaches your theaters.

    Consider one example of what this step could mean on our shores:

    One of the largest illegal streaming sites in the world, FMovies, sees over 160 million visits per month and because other nations already passed site blocking legislation, a third of that traffic still comes from the United States.

    That amounts to millions of Americans watching content that has been stolen and shared by digital pirates – content that was designed and developed for the big screen.

    Imagine if those viewers couldn’t find pirated versions of films through a basic internet search. Imagine if they could only watch the latest great movies when they’re released in their intended destinations: your theaters.

    If we had site-blocking in place, we wouldn’t have to imagine it. We’d have another tool to make that real.

    Now, I know what some in this room might be thinking: didn’t we have this debate in Congress already not too long ago?

    If you’re too young to remember, this story reached its previous climax in 2012 – five years before I joined the MPA.

    Back then, we heard claims that site-blocking would “break the internet.” Well, I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed, but even after site-blocking became commonplace around the world, the internet is doing just fine.

    Back then, we heard concerns about the potential use of site-blocking to stifle free speech. Well, that’s something we take seriously in an industry that embraces an unflinching commitment to the First Amendment.

    But again, real-world experience proved those dire predictions wrong. Examples of free speech violations are practically non-existent. Safeguards exist to ensure the protection of everyone’s legal rights.

    We can get this done – and do it right.

    And even if Members of Congress can’t seem to agree on much these days, surely they can find common ground on action to protect American businesses, defend American workers, and strengthen our public safety.

    It’s long past time to bring our laws in line with the rest of the world.

    The MPA is leading this charge in Washington. And we need the voices of theater owners – your voices – right by our side. Because this action will be good for all of us: Content creators. Theaters. Our workforce. Our country.

    It will help us meet our core charge as representatives of an iconic industry – protecting everyone who brings films to life. Empowering our creative geniuses. Ensuring they can take concepts from imagination, to idea, to your theaters – and leave a lasting imprint on audiences everywhere.

    Just last month, upon accepting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Mstyslav Chernov, the Ukrainian director of 20 Days in Mariupol, reminded us of the power and impact of what we do:

    “Cinema forms memories,” he said. “And memories form history.”

    Here’s a man whose nation is beset by war and devastation. And he decided to tell that story, to etch his people’s memories into history, through film.

    That speaks to our ultimate purpose – Michael O’Leary and NATO, the MPA and theater owners, studios and the creative community:

    Forging memories.

    Making history.

    Shining a light on remarkable stories.

    Deploying the unifying experience of seeing a film – on the big screen; on a giant canvas; side-by-side; together – to enthrall and educate, to motivate and inspire.

    Because it’s in that experience that we find the true magic of movies.

    Thank you.

    This article was first publishes on MPA