It's the end of an era in Hollywood. Jack Valenti, who created the movie ratings system and who's been Hollywood's top Washington lobbyist for almost 40 years, can finally retire from his job as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, now that the MPAA has finally found a replacement. The association announced Thursday that its new chief will be Dan Glickman, currently the director of Harvard's Institute of Politics, who has decades of Washington connections from his years in Bill Clinton's cabinet and his nine terms as a Democratic congressman from Kansas. Glickman also has ties to Hollywood; his son Jonathan is the producer of several Jackie Chan films, including the ''Shanghai Noon,'' ''Shanghai Nights,'' and the ''Rush Hour'' movies.
Glickman's job will be to represent the American movie industry in such global arenas as the battle against piracy and the drive for increased market share for American movies worldwide. That's where his Washington experience will come in handy -- he's served on the House committee overseeing copyright and intellectual property law, and he hammered out international trade agreements as Clinton's agriculture secretary. He also claims to have many friends among lawmakers in both parties that he can lobby to pass legislation favorable to Hollywood. Aside from his son's job and some past lobbying on behalf of Disney, his knowledge of the movie world is less extensive. ''I've got a lot to learn, a steep learning curve,'' he said at a press conference on Thursday.
Valenti, too, was a Washington insider (an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson) before he took the top MPAA job back in 1966. In 1968, he created the movie ratings board, with its G-PG-R alphabet soup, that still wields power today, and he'll continue to supervise the ratings board even after he steps down on Sept. 1. Valenti has also been a forceful opponent of copyright infringement and piracy, though sometimes with embarrassing results. Testifying in Washington in the early 1980s, he compared then-new home-video recorders to the Boston Strangler, predicting that movies copied on VCRs would destroy the film industry. He's been similarly wary about Internet file-swapping, and his attempt last year to ban year-end ''screener'' videos of movies for awards voters sparked a revolt among independent studios, who felt the policy would shut them out at the Oscars, and who got the ban overturned in court.
No one would blame Valenti, 82, for feeling tired of his job after that debacle. He's been talking about retiring for at least a year, but it took a long time for a search committee to find a Washington insider who would work for a relatively modest salary (''seven figures,'' Valenti said on Thursday, below the market rate for top D.C. lobbyists) and who didn't mind stepping into the seemingly intractable quagmires of global piracy and movie downloading. Glickman, 59, described his salary as ''more than I make now, a very comfortable wage,'' and said he was ''honored and inspired by the prospect of joining the MPAA.''