Mystery Shopper Surveys Expected
Year-End Wrap-up: 2002
by Jonathan Yarowsky
NATO Washington Counsel
In the aftermath
of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 2002 was a year in
which the U.S. Congress considered a wide
variety of legislative initiatives (including the creation
of the new Department of Homeland Security), addressed
growing concerns about a flagging economy and general distrust
of corporate leaders, and prepared for what turned out
to be a historic mid-term election in which Republicans
took control of the Senate and strengthened their majority
in the House of Representatives. As we enter the new year
and the new 108th Congress, it might be helpful to briefly
review some of the “marking” events of 2002
and their impact on NATO members.
Violence: On June 28 the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) released its fourth report on violent content and
the marketing practices of the entertainment industry.
Unlike previous reports, this report focused principally
on the placement of advertisements. As a result, the
exhibition industry received relatively modest attention.
of exhibitor Websites and ratings compliance at the box
office were two subjects that received attention.
regard to Websites, the FTC reviewed the sites of 12
NATO members and four non-members. The FTC found that:
1) 100 percent of NATO sites and 75 percent of non-member
sites display actual movie ratings; 2) 50 percent of
NATO sites display the reason for the ratings, but
sites display the rationale for the ratings; 3) 58
percent of NATO sites and 100 percent of non-member sites
information about the MPAA ratings system; 4) 83 percent
of NATO sites and 75 percent of non-member sites sell
movie tickets online; and 5) 58 percent of NATO sites
percent of non-member sites link to ratings information
at MPAA.org, parentalguide.org or filmratings.com.
The FTC also strongly indicated that NATO members should
remain vigilant in their efforts to make detailed ratings
available to consumers via theatre Websites.
respect to ratings compliance, the FTC took note of NATO's
input. Many of NATO's members have made substantial
efforts to: 1) train staff on ratings enforcement;
ratings enforcement compliance inspection to the
duties of managerial personnel who visit theatre locations
and/or have permanent compliance officers to monitor
and 3) post personnel at the auditorium entrance
extreme R-rated films and all NC-17 rated films.
The FTC also made
positive reference to NATO’s pledge to avoid
showing trailers for R-rated films before PG-rated
films, as well
as before PG-13-rated films on a case-by-case basis.
the FTC observed that it “continue[s] to
encourage retailers and theatre owners to adopt or enforce
policies to discourage the sale of R- or M-rated or explicit
content-labeled entertainment products to children.” We
expect the FTC will release its next report in mid-2003.
We urge NATO members to remain vigilant in their efforts
to implement NATO’s 12-step program and to increase
ratings enforcement at the box office. We also fully expect
that the next report will include “mystery shopper
surveys” that have either taken place or
will take place in the coming months. It is important
for NATO members
to stand by the commitments made in 2000.
Day 2002: NATO hosted its annual board of directors meeting
May 8-10 in Washington, D.C.
with this event, more than 40 NATO members took
Hill to meet directly with their representatives
in Congress. The message was as simple as it
industry is part and parcel of the communities
it serves. To this end, our Hill visits focused
and staff on NATO’s continuing efforts to support
movie rating compliance, the reasons for Congress to avoid
increasing the minimum wage, and NATO’s
response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
As we reported earlier
this year, our message was well-received and
appreciated. Following these Hill visits, we
heard from numerous members
of Congress and their staffers that NATO representatives
were impressive in their grasp of the issues
and the power of their presentation. Since last
summer, we have continued
to build on those critical lines of communications
that exhibitors so successfully opened last summer.
the evening of May 9, Chris Henick, former deputy assistant
to President Bush and deputy
Karl Rove, joined NATO members at their gala
annual dinner. He shared with NATO members
President Bush’s appreciation
for the industry’s efforts in the war
on terrorism, as well as a vow to work with
NATO members on a whole host
of issues in the coming years.
Wage: Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) offered his legislation
to raise the minimum
NATO continued to work with a broad coalition
of businesses in opposition to this legislation,
did not pass
either the House or the Senate. Minimum wage
increases were proposed in the last three
we expect similar legislation to be introduced
addition to these policy areas, we also monitored a variety
of other issues for NATO
in 2002, including
in the government’s consideration of repealed ergonomics
rules, Congress’ consideration of digital rights
management legislation, and efforts by the Department of
Justice in challenging theatre chains’ nationwide “compliance” with
the American with Disabilities Act. As we look forward
to 2003, we also very much look forward to working with
exhibition in moving the agenda forward. The involvement
of NATO members makes a key difference in our work; and
for that, your Washington team is grateful.