LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood moguls will offer a list of concessions on Capitol Hill this week that would restrict marketing of adult-themed movies to children and would offer more specific information about R-rated films in advertisements.
While the details of the proposals were still being hammered out in marathon meetings here and in Washington, the studio executives generally agreed to stop advertising for R-rated movies during television shows that tend to attract viewers under 17. There would also be a ban on previews for R-rated films at G-rated movies.
The studios will add specific language to advertisements for R films, such as an "L" for graphic language, "V" for violence and "S" for sexual content. A similar rating system for television has drawn mixed reviews.
"We're going to govern more closely, more effectively. This will force us to be more self-governing than we would've been," said one studio chairman on condition of anonymity. But he added, "If we only made good wholesome movies we'd be out of business."
Senior executives from seven major studios that are members of the Motion Picture Association of America -- Disney, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount and MGM -- plus DreamWorks SKG will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday. It is the first time studio executives have been called before Congress to defend the marketing of their films.
Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was angered when executives failed to appear earlier this month to respond to the scathing conclusions of a Federal Trade Commission report on Hollywood's marketing practices. But studio heads were also angered that they were given only two days' notice to travel and prepare for the hearing.
MPAA Chairman Jack Valenti appeared in their stead; he was not invited to testify Wednesday.
Released Sept. 11, the FTC report accused Hollywood of marketing R-rated movies to children under 17 by advertising during kid-oriented TV shows and in teen-oriented magazines. The agency also conducted a poll that found that unaccompanied children ages 13 to 16 were admitted to R-rated movies more than half the time. Minors under 17 are not supposed to be admitted to R-rated films without an adult.
In the past 10 days, studio executives, their lawyers, lobbyists and MPAA officials have been frantically huddling in an effort to put together a coordinated response. Their goal is to take steps that will head off restrictive legislation against the industry.
Among other measures to be announced will be the appointment at each studio of an executive responsible for monitoring advertisements aimed at children and teens.
They will also encourage theater owners to be more diligent in checking IDs, especially at the entrance to violent films, and will promise to exclude children from research screenings for films that are likely to be rated R.
Disney has already announced that it will not air ads for R-rated movies on its ABC television network before 9 p.m., and will prohibit trailers for R films on its Disney-brand movies.
The details of some of the proposals remain to be worked out. Warner Bros will adopt the "S," "L" and "V" language in its advertisements, while other studios may use more specific phrasing still to be determined. The MPAA is expected to devise a uniform system that will account for the problem of space in small advertisements for movies.
Said one executive: "We'll tell you if it's 'R' for explicit sex, for fantasy violence or active violence. The whole thing is we want to give parents more information."
Hollywood executives are eager to be seen as forthcoming in this appearance, but privately they are furious about being hauled before a Senate committee to answer for their products.
"If they wanted to do this in a productive way, they would tap us on the shoulder, meet us at a restaurant and say, 'You're on notice.' But instead we wake up one morning and find we were called before a Senate committee. That's unfair," one executive said.
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