Dan Glickman has one of the toughest acts in Hollywood to follow.
The former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary still is getting his feet wet as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, a job that makes him the main go-between for movie studios with Washington and among governments around the world.
Glickman, 60, took over in September from one of Hollywood’s best-known figures, Jack Valenti, who had led the MPAA since 1966 and masterminded the ratings system that has guided audiences’ film choices for almost four decades.
Since Valenti’s retirement, Glickman has been on an introductory tour, meeting studio executives, producers, foreign leaders and others with a stake in such Hollywood issues as movie piracy and access to overseas markets.
This week, Glickman delivered one of the opening addresses at ShoWest, an annual Las Vegas convention of theater owners, the first time in the event’s 31-year history that anyone other than Valenti filled that role.
“He had the luxury of being there so long that an awful lot of people only knew him, so I’ve had to kind of begin a real rebuilding process,” Glickman says. “And I obviously have not been personally identified with this industry.
“But the thing I do have is: I care very much about it, and I love movies, so I think people have begun to appreciate that I really want to be a part of their business and help them.”
The transition has been smooth, with Glickman following Valenti’s lead on many key issues. Movie piracy was a dominant point in Glickman’s speech to theater owners, as it had been during Valenti’s recent addresses at the convention.
Glickman visited Mexico last week and discussed piracy matters, and he plans other trips abroad this year where he will weigh in on the problem of bootlegged DVDS of Hollywood films turning up in overseas markets.
“Piracy is such an overarching theme in the future of this industry, there’s no question I have to focus on that a lot,” Glickman said.
Like Valenti, Glickman also defends the frequently criticized ratings system as a solid guide to help parents decide if a movie is appropriate for their children. Critics have slammed the ratings system over the years, saying it is overly permissive on violence and too prudish on sex.
Glickman said the movie ratings work well but that parents also should keep an eye on online services and other content guides to help make choices on what films their children should see.
“Is the ratings system perfect? No. Was it written on the tablets of Mount Sinai and therefore can never be changed? No,” Glickman said.
“I’m willing to listen to constructive discussions about where the long-term future of the ratings ought to be. I think they’re critically important. Without the ratings system in this country, we would inevitably lead to some sort of government censorship, which I don’t want to see at all.”
After serving in Congress for 18 years, Glickman was agriculture secretary under President Clinton, a post he said is not as dissimilar as it sounds from his new job in show business.
Glickman noted that the two biggest U.S. exports consistently have been agricultural products and intellectual property such as movies.
“Whether it’s with China or Europe or the developing world, it’s both agriculture and intellectual property, and I negotiated or was involved in negotiations on a lot of international trade agreements,” he said.
He also cites among his qualifications a lifelong love for movies. Glickman said his own passion for cinema certainly played a part in the career choice of his son, producer Jonathan Glickman, whose credits include the “Rush Hour” movies, “Shanghai Noon” and the current hit “The Pacifier.”
Among Glickman’s favorite films are parts one and two of “The Godfather” saga, “Patton,” “Gandhi” and “Animal House,” “because it reminds me of my fraternity life,” he said.
“I don’t necessarily have a single favorite movie,” Glickman said. “And I guess if I had to answer you truthfully, any movie my son produces would be my favorite movie.”
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