2004 Issues Expected To Reappear in 2005
Coming Soon To
A State Near You
by Belinda Judson
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
Presently most of our state legislatures
are out of session so it seems like a good time to take
stock and look at
what transpired, legislatively speaking, in our state capitals
over the past year. And since a majority of our legislative
bodies will reconvene after the first of the year, it also
seems like a perfect time to take a look at what may lie
ahead. But let’s examine first the events of 2004.
To no one’s surprise, we were revisited
by a myriad of very familiar issues. Proposals dealing
from taxes (on admissions, film rentals and even soft drinks)
to minimum wage and obscenity appeared on numerous state
and municipal agendas. We were successful in defeating
column summarized the status
of the different state minimum wage initiatives. Subsequent
to that issue
going to press, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the proposed
wage hike in California. The minimum wages in both Florida and Nevada, meanwhile, were on Nov. 2 increased by voters
to $6.15, one dollar over the federal minimum.
Some states passed ratings or obscenity
laws that related to videos and video games. (Though these
laws do not directly
impact theatres, they set a very real precedent for regulation
of entertainment products subject to voluntary rating systems.)
California passed legislation that requires video game
retailers to post a sign or notify consumers that a rating
system is available to aid in the selection of games. Delaware passed an obscenity statute that added videos, video games,
audiocassettes and compact discs to the list of “materials” that
may be deemed obscene. It also prohibited the sale of those
materials to minors under the age of 18 if said materials
sport parental warning labels. Legislation passed in Louisiana making it a crime to exhibit sexually explicit material
in a motor vehicle.
We saw many states propose or pass new tax
incentives for motion picture production companies. Such
a law passed
by South Carolina, to the chagrin of cinema owners operating
in that state, calls for the incentives to be funded “from
Those who read John Fithian’s column in the August/September In
Focus know we saw leaders in the food industry
get obesity-related bills enacted to prevent frivolous
lawsuits. As noted,
these measures are helpful to cinema owners because they
cover concession stands. Ten states have already passed
this type of legislation and at least six others were,
at press time, contemplating similar measures.
Another exhibition priority this year has
been to support and, when needed, actively lobby with the
Association of America (MPAA) in its efforts to get camcorder-piracy
legislation enacted. Efforts in this arena have been
hugely successful. In 2004 camcorder-piracy laws were enacted
in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia,
Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia
and Washington. By the time you read this, both Massachusetts
and Michigan may have passed similar statutes. We are
grateful to our good friends at the MPAA, who worked very
with NATO on language regarding theatre owner liability.
As a result, every camcorder-piracy statute enacted carries
immunity language designed to protect exhibitors.
We also want to thank our state/regional
representatives and the many exhibitors who, when called
push state legislation into law by contacting legislators
testifying before legislative committees. It was important
for lawmakers to hear that piracy is detrimental not
only to the industry but also to their constituents.
So … on to next year! (The nature
of dealing with legislation is that the work is never
Expect the issues that revisited the state
agendas to revisit them again.
While we have made great progress with camcorder-piracy
legislation, we still have many states to cover and it
will again be a priority for us to partner with the MPAA
to convince lawmakers that we need their help with this
Nevada has already
introduced camcorder legislation, and the MPAA is now in
up a preliminary
list of other “target” states for next year’s
On a related note, many of you have called
with concerns about what to do when you see pirated copies
on your street
corners, at flea markets and even in some local shops.
To report these cases you may call the MPAA at (800) NOCOPYS.
Thanks to everyone who supported us on state
and municipal efforts in 2004. Here’s to a very happy, healthy,
prosperous and legislatively successful new year!