Charles Rivkin “State of the Industry” Address at CinemaCon 2023
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by MPA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin
Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Rolando. It’s great to be here. And it’s true: I can’t wait to see what happens next. Because CinemaCon is where we see the first glimmers of future blockbusters.
THIS is where it all begins.
Remember last year? We felt the G-force rush of the U.S. Navy’s F-18 Super Hornets soaring into the clouds in Top Gun: Maverick – before the film took the entire world by storm.
We slipped on our 3D glasses to immerse ourselves in the first global preview of Avatar: The Way of Water. And now it’s surging past $2.3 billion in global ticket sales and hitting a high-water mark as one of the biggest movies of all time.
And the hits just kept coming at the global box office, with recent successes like Jurassic World Dominion, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Elvis, Uncharted, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
And as we speak, the Super Mario Bros. movie has given itself one heck of a super mushroom power-up, for all you gamers out there, leaping towards the billion-dollar mark. Kids and family films are back in force. Just sensational!
But it’s not only the big-ticket movies that are drawing in audiences. Because films like Cocaine Bear, 80 for Brady, and Jesus Revolution are also finding success, showcasing the range of films, large and small, and their enduring ability to connect with every imaginable audience.
From the biggest franchise films to the smallest indie gems, people are showing us that they want to see the full range of great stories, well told. And best of all? They want to see them in theaters.
So clearly, audience appetite is as strong as ever. That was the main finding this year from NATO’s inaugural Cinema Foundation Report. Our challenge now is to get even more movies on your screens for those hungry audiences to enjoy.
And that’s what I am here to talk about today. Last year, I shared how our content protection team works with global law enforcement to fight digital piracy – which has a huge impact on box office revenue.
Well this year, I want to tell you what the MPA is doing – every day – and around the world – working with, and on behalf of our six member studios, to ensure that more movies are being produced in more markets, with more authentic stories being told, so that more audiences can watch them on your cinema screens – from Manhattan, to Mexico City to Mumbai.
So how do we do that? Well, it starts by engaging and partnering with elected officials, regulators, and local industry around the world to help create the right conditions for global production.
And what are those conditions? Policies that encourage Investment and a strong rule of law. Robust copyright laws that protect creators. Tax laws that give producers the motive, and the means, to invest in creating jobs. And the commercial freedom that enables distributors like many of you here today to bring unique and exciting movies to your audiences.
This is at the core of every conversation that my team and I are having every day with leaders around the world. We make the case that creating attractive production hubs strengthens local economies. It develops a high-value, high-skilled workforce. It builds new infrastructure, and it improves a country’s global economic competitiveness.
And on the investment piece alone, the numbers couldn’t be more compelling.
For example, in Australia, every Australian dollar invested in production has generated nearly six Australian dollars in return.
Every dollar of tax credit allocated in New York State generates more than nine dollars of economic activity in the Empire State.
And every British pound spent on attracting investment in the UK film sector returned almost eight pounds in revenue.
And now that the world has reopened, we are doubling down on our outreach and engagement.
While I was in Mexico last fall, I met with Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard as well as the Governor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, who oversees the busiest audiovisual capital in all of Latin America to talk about expanding capacity and generating more entertainment industry jobs.
Similar conversations are taking place in Argentina, and in Colombia, we helped to preserve the region’s most competitive production incentives – both a tax credit and a cash rebate. And Ecuador followed suit with plans to introduce similar production policies that will make its market one of the most attractive in the region.
The Middle East, where people under the age of 30 make up over half the population, is another region bursting with potential for our industry. Just look at Saudi Arabia. Since 2018, the country has become one of the region’s top movie markets, and they now cite production incentives, which we are helping to shape, as a core element of their Vision 2030 economic plan.
And similarly, the King of Jordan last year shared with me his ambitious plans to attract more international investment in new sound stages to make movies in iconic locations like Petra and Wadi Rum.
Moving to New Zealand, whose spectacular locations provided so much of the magic in Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible Fallout, Avatar, and many other amazing films. We met with then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to ensure that New Zealand continues to attract our high-value productions.
And in Canada, which is quickly becoming our industry’s “production home away from home”, our tireless work with local partners has attracted record-breaking production investments that total 5.2 billion Canadian dollars.
Earlier this year, after speaking with Germany’s media and culture minister Claudia Roth in Berlin, we invited her to meet with the MPA’s member studios on the Paramount lot in LA, where we talked about how to make Germany’s production program both greener, and more economically competitive.
Another major theatrical market that we have been heavily engaged in is South Korea, whose popular culture today is currently enjoying incredible global success. I was delighted to meet Prime Minister Han and other political leaders in Seoul last Fall, to discuss how we can work with them to help sustain this extraordinary growth.
In fact, I have to leave CinemaCon sooner than I would like this week because the MPA is hosting South Korea’s President Yoon and a delegation of top entertainment industry leaders at our global headquarters in Washington, D.C. where we will continue these important conversations.
I think you get the picture. The MPA is kind of like Roy Kent from the hit series “Ted Lasso”: You know…. “We’re here. We’re there. We’re every… (effing) where”.
And we are doing everything we can to get more films on more screens, both big and small.
The fact is, that we have the ultimate business calling card in the world: the magic of the movies. And I am often reminded of my previous role as U.S. Ambassador to France, where I saw firsthand how movies literally “project” what America stands for: freedom of expression, equality, opportunity, and that unrelenting can-do spirit.
It’s amazing what powerful storytelling (and – yes – a little stardust) can do to unite people across borders, faiths, and cultures. The MPA is unique as an industry association in that our teams are based in all corners of the world – from Washington DC and Los Angeles, to Toronto, Brussels, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, Canberra, New Delhi, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, and elsewhere.
In many ways, we are serving as Hollywood’s ambassadors to the world, engaging at all levels of government to fight for the freedom, and the agency that this great industry needs to do what it does best, and ultimately to bring more people to more theaters around the world.
So, to everyone here at CinemaCon, on behalf of the MPA member studios, I want to say thank you – thank you for what you do every day to keep this industry thriving, alive and vibrant.
As ‘Jack Conrad’ said in the movie Babylon, “Together, we’ve got to innovate, together we’ve got to inspire. We’ve got to turn today into tomorrow,” he said “so that tomorrow’s lonely man may look up at that flickering screen – and say – for the very first time, “Eureka! I am not alone!”
Now one of our greatest allies in this mission, and such an integral part of this global family, has been my friend John Fithian, whose impact and influence in the industry have been truly immeasurable.
Under his leadership for almost a quarter century, NATO has worked side by side with the MPA through critical challenges, like the industry’s transition to digital cinema, a pandemic that shuttered theaters across the world, and our continuing fight against piracy. And during my time at the MPA, I’ve relied regularly on John Fithian’s counsel and his unwavering belief in the theatrical experience.
We will miss him, but we also know that under the leadership of Michael O’Leary, whom we once had the privilege of calling a colleague here at the MPA, NATO will be in good hands.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the one and only – John Fithian!