MPAA Chief Christopher Dodd: Hollywood Is 'Terrible' at Marketing Itself

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The studios' newly installed top lobbyist tells THR "there is a total misunderstanding on Capitol Hill" that the film industry is nothing but "red carpets and tuxedoes."

LAS VEGAS -- Christopher Dodd doesn't mince words. At CinemaCon on Tuesday, the new MPAA chairman and CEO said Hollywood is great at selling movies but awful at marketing itself.

As a result, Washington tends to think of the film industry as "red carpets and tuxedoes," not as a thriving industry that employs millions and contributes billions to the economy.

Dodd's comments came during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter following his first public speech and news briefing since he began at the MPAA nine days ago. CinemaCon, the annual convention of theater owners where studios tout their upcoming movies, was a natural venue for Dodd to emerge.

Dodd took the convention by storm, setting up a flurry of meetings with exhibitors and studios and becoming the unofficial star of the Caesars Palace event.

Becoming a lobbyist is a big change for Dodd, who spent three decades as a U.S. senator from Connecticut. The six major studios wanted someone who was a Washington insider, and Dodd more than fits the bill.

In the interview with THR, Dodd said it's too early to make any big policy announcements on such issues as piracy -- the most pressing problem facing the business -- or theatrical windows. But on the issue of Hollywood doing a better job of marketing itself, he was adamant, saying it's a top priority for him.

"There is a total misunderstanding on Capitol Hill," Dodd said. "Studios are terrific at selling their films but terrible, just terrible, at marketing their business."

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One idea Dodd has involves theater owners. During his speech, he encouraged exhibitors to host Saturday morning community meetings, where they could explain the problems and concerns facing the movie business.

"After three decades in Congress, I have some idea how to attract the attention of a congressman or senator," Dodd said. "When you return to your states, invite your local governor, state legislator, congressman and senator to your theater and fill it with those who work with you along with video store employees and their families. Tell them about the importance of these issues to you and to your communities."

He said that sort of event would have impressed him far more when he was a senator than a visit from an executive.

Dodd, who perfected his oration skills during his years in public office, spoke with the firey flair of a politician during his address to exhibitors.

"Much of what I will say this morning, I know you know, but at a moment like this, it is important that you know what I feel about this industry and the determination I bring to this undertaking," he said. "So let me begin with the obvious: The production and exhibition industries cannot succeed -- cannot survive -- without each other. If you fail, we fail. And it's just as true that if we fail, so will you."

It was Dodd's level of activity at CinemaCon and effort to absorb everything he could about the film business that had people talking. He was already quoting screen counts and statistics about how many people work in the film industry (2.5 million).

On Monday night, Dodd spent time in the green room at the Colosseum during Paramount's presentation, which included titles from DreamWorks Animation and Marvel Studios. He got to meet Paramount vice chair Rob Moore and DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Dodd was again backstage for a few moments on Tuesday during DreamWorks' presentation, meeting DreamWorks co-chairman and CEO Stacey Snider, among others.

At a news briefing with National Association of Theatre Owners chairman and CEO John Fithian, Dodd said it had been an intense 24 hours. "It was kind of like sitting under a waterfall in terms of the information coming in," Dodd said.

Dodd has known Fithian for years, having served in the U.S. House of Representatives with Fithian's father, Floyd Fithian.