Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
three very productive NATO meetings at ShoWest Ratings Compliance,
NATO of Illinois, and the Regional Units Task Force it struck
me again (as it always does when attending these meetings) how many
external factors affect our industry, especially in the realm of
federal and state legislation. It made me think, What if ... NATO
and our state units didnt exist? Who would be there to protect
us and be proactive and try to ensure that these factors
do not adversely affect us? How would we ever keep abreast of the
mountain of information that is available to association members
at meetings or through association communications?
At these three ShoWest meetings alone I learned a great deal of
information about a variety of subjects (and I like to think, since
I work at it full time, that I am very informed about theses issues).
At the Ratings Compliance meeting, Joan Graves of the Classification
and Ratings Administration discussed the composition of the ratings
board and how it arrives at the ratings for each film. She also
said she wants exhibitors to pass along complaints from parents
about particular films receiving what those parents perceive to
be inappropriate ratings.
NATO president John Fithian shared the results of the latest FTC
survey regarding ratings enforcement in our theatres. There followed
a discussion on ways attendees were motivating their employees to
make sure that their theatres were compliant. What a great forum
in which to share and pick up some excellent information.
John and NATO vice president Mary Ann Grasso have spent countless
hours with the FTC testifying on behalf of exhibition. Without NATOs
input, government action would be far more onerous. While each exhibitor
needs to be vigilant in continuing to enforce the ratings, NATO
has been there to help us with these efforts and to fight any legislation
that would mandate a ratings system. What if ...
At the NATO of Illinois meeting, several items that the state unit
had been working on were discussed. New state legislation recently
passed requires exhibitors to track gift certificate sales and redemptions
and turn over monies for all unclaimed certificates to the state
after five years; the NATO of Illinois office informed its members
of a state program it could enroll in to accept expired gift certificates
so they wouldnt have to pay the state unclaimed funds.
Among the other topics the Illinois exhibitors took up: the threat
of admissions taxes, a public service announcement regarding organ
donation, and NATO of Illinois scholarship program. Discussed
also was a reception that might bring Illinois legislators together
with the NATO of Illinois lobbyist and the cinema owners themselves.
The wonderful work done by NATO of Illinois on behalf of its members
is very similar to that I have witnessed while attending other local
association meetings throughout the country. What if ...
The Regional Units Task Force had two very special guests: Vans
Stevenson from the Motion Picture Association of America and Nanci
Linke-Ellis from Tripod Captioned Films. They discussed working
with exhibition to offer the hearing-impaired community showings
of open-captioned films, thus avoiding onerous legislation regarding
this issue. As you know from earlier reports, there is a coalition
that has threatened lawsuits and legislation in every state to mandate
showings of captioned films. Such legislation was already proposed
in Connecticut and through the good efforts of the MPAA,
Tripod, the Connecticut Association of Theatre Owners, and exhibitors
participating in the Tripod program the proposal did not
pass this year. What remains, of course, is the possibility that
similar bills may still be introduced in Connecticut and other state
The task force, comprised of officers representing NATO-certified
regional units, shared as always information regarding
proposed state and local legislation. I am always amazed at the
myriad issues on our plates. The state units reported dealing with
proposed legislation regarding admissions taxes, sales taxes, censorship,
licenses, labor laws, safety laws, minimum wage, the Americans with
Disabilities Act (specifically recent proposed legislation regarding
the hearing- and visually-impaired communities), camcorder piracy,
Internet content, and ratings enforcement. I could go on but Im
sure you get the picture. What if ...
Through the hard work of NATO (Thank you!) and of those in the field
at the state/regional units (Thank you!), there will continue to
be a strong unified voice to monitor and fight these issues on your
behalf. However, to do so, your continued support, participation
and membership in NATO and your state/regional unit are essential
to ensure that none of us will have to find out what if ...