September 23, 2021

Judge Rules for Interns Who Sued Fox Searchlight

In the decision, Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that Fox Searchlight should have paid two interns on the movie “Black Swan,” because they were essentially regular employees.

The judge noted that these internships did not foster an educational environment and that the studio received the benefits of the work. The case could have broad implications. Young people have flocked to internships, especially against the backdrop of a weak job market.

Employment experts estimate that undergraduates work in more than one million internships a year, an estimated half of which are unpaid, according to Intern Bridge, a research firm.

“Employers have already started to take a hard look at their internship programs,” said Rachel Bien, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “I think this decision will go far to discourage private companies from having unpaid internship programs.”

Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, said: “We are very disappointed with the court’s rulings. We believe they are erroneous, and will seek to have them reversed.”

Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, production interns on “Black Swan,” sued Fox Searchlight in September 2011. In the suit, Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman said they did basic chores, usually undertaken by paid employees. Like their counterparts in other industries, the interns took lunch orders, answered phones, arranged other employees’ travel plans, tracked purchase orders, took out the trash and assembled office furniture.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Mr. Glatt, who has an M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University. “I hope that this sends a very loud and clear message to employers and to students doing these internships, and to the colleges that are cooperating in creating this large pool of free labor — for most for-profit employers, this is illegal. It shouldn’t be up to the least powerful person in the arrangement to have to bring a lawsuit to stop this.”

In the ruling, the judge said unpaid internships should be allowed only in very limited circumstances.

Judge Pauley rejected the argument made by many companies to adopt a “primary benefit test” to determine whether an intern should be paid, specifically whether “the internship’s benefits to the intern outweigh the benefits to the engaging entity.” Judge Pauley wrote that such a test would be too subjective and unpredictable.

Instead, the judge forcefully called for following criteria that the Department of Labor has laid out for unpaid internships. Those rules say unpaid internships should not be to the immediate advantage of the employer, the work must be similar to vocational training given in an educational environment, the experience must be for the benefit of the intern and the intern’s work must not displace that of regular employees.

Some employers have asserted that they have free rein not to pay interns as long as the interns are receiving college credit. But Judge Pauley said receiving academic credit was of little importance in determining whether interns should be paid.

“Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as résumé listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works,” Judge Pauley wrote. “But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them.” Judge Pauley added that “Searchlight received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees.”

The “Black Swan” case was the first in a series of lawsuits filed by unpaid interns.

In February 2012, a former Harper’s Bazaar intern sued Hearst Magazines, asserting that she regularly worked 40 to 55 hours a week without being paid. Last July, a federal court ruled that the plaintiff could proceed with her lawsuit as a collective action, certifying a class of all unpaid interns who worked in the company’s magazines division since February 2009. This February, an unpaid intern sued Elite Model Management, seeking $50 million.

After a lawsuit brought by unpaid interns, Charlie Rose and his production company announced last December that they would pay back wages to as many as 189 interns. The settlement called for many of the interns to receive about $1,100 each — amounting to roughly $110 a week in back pay, for a maximum of 10 weeks, the approximate length of a school semester.

As part of his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Pauley also granted class certification to a group of unpaid interns in New York who worked in several divisions of the Fox Entertainment Group.

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Scene Stealers : The Hollywood Reporter Dusts Off Its Party Clothes

But Ms. Min, above, sparkling in a yellow jeweled shift dress by Miu Miu, had also just pulled off a coup. A swarm of A-list stars, that most finicky of Tinseltown species, had descended to walk the red carpet — her red carpet.

Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Sally Field and a bevy of other Oscar nominees had all shown up for the party, the latest in a string of Reporter-hosted events here.

“I think this turnout says it all,” Ms. Min said, flashing a smile in the direction of Jim Gianopulos, the big boss at 20th Century Fox, and Donna Langley, co-chairman of Universal Pictures. “The whole town is here.”

But where was Snoop Dogg, who had been hired to be the D.J.? “Going on any minute,” Ms. Min said brightly.

As recently as 2010, The Reporter would have had a hard time persuading its own etiolated staff to gather for a party, much less marquee stars. The trade newspaper, founded in 1930, was bleeding from layoffs, vanishing advertisers and ferociously competitive entertainment industry blogs. It had become what moviedom dreads most: a has-been.

Then Ms. Min, 43, arrived from New York, where she successfully ran Us Weekly, and set about transforming The Reporter from a dull daily trade publication into a glossy large-format magazine. With money from new private-equity owners, the Reporter went on a hiring spree and started to break news again. Ad sales rose by more than 50 percent, while Web traffic increased by more than 800 percent.

Some people here now refer to the revamped Reporter, with its social-scene pages and power-lunch tidbits mixed with exposés and frothy celebrity features, as the “new” Vanity Fair. That’s certainly a stretch when it comes to making money. But certain similarities between the two magazines are starting to be striking and not just because they tread similar editorial and advertising turf.

Ms. Min and The Reporter’s fiery publisher, Lynne Segall, also seem to be taking a page out of Vanity Fair’s party playbook. Hosting Hollywood parties, particularly around the Oscars, has long been a way for Vanity Fair to woo advertisers and polish its brand while simultaneously creating content for its pages. Its annual Oscar party will be held at the Sunset Tower next Sunday after the Academy Awards.

The Reporter has been aggressively raising its profile with a similar strategy. On Saturday, for instance, it will replace Variety as the longtime media sponsor of the Night Before Party, a fund-raiser that can draw more powerful Hollywood figures than the Oscar ceremony itself.

“There is also a whole social side to the entertainment industry that is not well reported on, or it at least it wasn’t until we started,” Ms. Min, sitting at her orchid-laden desk, said last week. She added that parties also help her newly hired editors, 10 of whom have relocated from New York, to cultivate entertainment industry sources. “The best publications create an atmosphere you want to inhabit,” she said.

Before Ms. Min arrived, The Hollywood Reporter held two events a year: one tied to its “next generation” issue — studio executives, writers, directors and agents on the rise — and a dull breakfast marking the publication of its list of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment. It also sponsored the Key Art Awards, given for achievement in movie marketing.

Last year, The Reporter sponsored or staged 13 events.

Various parties in Los Angeles have been tailored to stylists, managers and lawyers. Ms. Min teamed with Google on an event in Washington the night before the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. The Reporter also was the host of an event in New York, attracting people like Katie Couric and Barbara Walters.

“We want to be looked at as The Hollywood Reporter setting the agenda for entertainment,” Ms. Segall said.

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An Overture From China Is Yet to Win Hollywood

To judge from the pace of the deal-making so far, it may take a while.

Wanda has been talking with some studios, as Mr. Wang promised when Wanda completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of AMC Entertainment with a flashy presentation in early September. But any progress has come in halting steps, according to people briefed on the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid conflict with the principals.

And that probably carries an overall message about the film industry’s current rush to do business in China: The promise is great, but much is still being lost in translation.

“Hollywood would prefer to accept what they commonly call ‘dumb money’ and not give very much back in return,” said Stanley Rosen, a University of Southern California political science professor who has written extensively about China. “China is now pushing back.”

Both sides are likely to continue pressing their efforts; Hollywood is eager to have a partner that can help it tap into China’s fast-growing film market, and Wanda wants to strengthen its foothold in the lucrative North American market. But the slow going underscores the disconnect inherent in negotiations between parties whose goals reflect their own, more narrow interests.

Wanda is looking to be involved in potentially lucrative Hollywood projects. But big studios are extremely wary of sharing the pie with partners who do not want to settle for less than the very best the studios have to offer.

At 20th Century Fox, where Mr. Wang paid a call in late summer, the studio was quickly reported in The Los Angeles Times to be completing a deal under which it would co-produce films with Wanda in China.

Five months later, according to one person briefed on the dealings, the discussions continue over the possible coproduction of some Chinese language projects, and the relationship is cordial. But there is, so far, no Fox-Wanda pact, partly because Wanda would prefer to get involved with some mainstream Hollywood productions, and Fox has not been ready to discuss that.

A spokesman for Fox declined to comment on any dealings with Wanda. And Wanda representatives did not respond to queries that were relayed through Fleishman-Hillard, an American-based public relations firm that has represented the Chinese company in the past.

At Sony Pictures Entertainment, another stop on Mr. Wang’s summer itinerary, talks have centered on the possibility that Wanda would provide financing of $300 million to $600 million for a slate of Hollywood films, according to people who were briefed on the talks.

One of those people said a deal appeared close. But another said it has been hung up over financial terms — Sony is said to be demanding a higher fee as the distributor of the films than Wanda, which would be paying for them, would like. There are also questions about what movies would be included. Sony would prefer to exclude its valuable sequels and prequels to movies like the Spider-Man series, for instance; Wanda would prefer to see everything on the table.

A spokesman for Sony declined to comment, adding that the studio generally does not discuss its financing.

One clear step taken since Mr. Wang’s trip has been in a reverse direction.

A few months after Wanda’s acquisition of AMC Entertainment was completed, according to a December report in the Santa Monica Daily Press, the theater company informed the city of Santa Monica that it was terminating talks — which had been going on for more than three years — about plans to build a new entertainment complex near a central promenade, where AMC operates three smaller, and aging, theaters.

Santa Monica officials had viewed the new complex, which was to cost about $33 million, as a centerpiece in the renewal of its downtown. That area will soon be served by a new rail line connecting it with Culver City and downtown Los Angeles.

But the city, which is known for its elaborate development agreements and close attention to things like public art and spaces, was notified, shortly after completing an environmental impact report, that AMC and its team had decided the project was not cost-effective.

Sun Dee Larson, a spokeswoman for AMC Entertainment, now a Wanda unit, said in an e-mail last week that she was traveling in China and could not immediately discuss the Santa Monica project. Ms. Larson also said she could not provide a Wanda contact who might discuss the film financing talks.

But Jason Harris, Santa Monica’s economic development manager, said city officials had thought the project, which had been slowed while AMC negotiated its own sale to Wanda, would benefit from new capital that came with the new owner. Instead, he said, it bogged down, partly over the theater company’s reluctance to commit to amenities like reserved seating.

Now, however, other potential theater developers are taking a look. “You wouldn’t believe the level of interest,” said Mr. Harris.

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Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: Hollywood’s 2012 Comeback, and Reviewing Amazon’s Reviews

The Breakfast Meeting

What’s making news in media.

Movie attendance was up 5.6 percent, despite a weak summer, punctuated by mass killings at a screening in Aurora, Colo., of the latest Batman feature, Brooks Barnes writes. Ticket revenue at North American theaters is projected to jump by 6 percent, to $10.8 billion, according to an analysis by In 2012, industry executives say, the increase from foreign sales was even more critical, salvaging the prospects of movies that were mild disappointments in the United States like “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” from 20th Century Fox, which made $68 million in China alone.

  • This year was a particularly lucrative year for Lions Gate Entertainment, which includes both the Lionsgate and Summit banners, Mr. Barnes writes, which had a pair of blockbusters, “The Hunger Games” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2.” As a result, Lions Gate, a small movie company bolstered by its acquisition of Summit Entertainment, will end the year as North America’s fifth-largest distributor as measured by ticket sales, surpassing 20th Century Fox and Paramount.

A pair of books by the Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly about a pair of presidential assassinations — Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s — sit atop The New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list. He writes them with a researcher, Martin Dugard, Leslie Kaufman reports; Mr. O’Reilly says he does the writing himself, setting a word count for each week. Asked whether 1,000 a day would be a good pace, he replied, “I can write 1,000 words in my sleep.” The day after Christmas, he starts on his next book, part of a three-book deal with Henry Holt. He won’t say what his next topic is, but on his office wall, next to a newspaper announcing the Kennedy news, is one reporting on William McKinley’s assassination at the turn of the last century.

Amazon has been cracking down on users’ rave reviews of books that appear to be less than objective, according to writers who have noticed that their disappearance, David Streitfeld reports. Amazon won’t discuss the purge — including the basis for eliminating reviews and how many have been eliminated — which only adds to the authors’ uncertainty. The move follows a number of highly publicized cases of authors using “sock puppets,” or fake online identities, to increase the number of positive reviews of their work. Critics of the rise of sock puppets have also aimed at a retired librarian from Atlanta who has more than 25,000 reviews, almost all of them granting four or five stars.

The settlement with the government of e-book pricing that was intended to counteract an anticompetitive agreement between the big publishers and Apple hasn’t yet led to more competition, David Streitfeld reports. Amazon, a critic of the pricing agreement, has largely respected the $10 floor for e-books the publishers were seeking. A reason, analysts say, is that the growth in e-book market share is slowing down. “Even retailers like Amazon have to be wondering, how far can we go — or should we go — to make our prices lower than the other guys if it’s not helping us with market share?” said Michael Norris, a Simba Information analyst who follows the publishing industry.

Midge Turk Richardson, a former Roman Catholic nun who later edited Seventeen magazine, died last weekend at age 82, Margolit Fox writes. Her life had a neat symmetry – 18 years in a convent in Los Angeles as Sister Agnes Marie, from the ages of 18 to 36, and 18 years as the editor of Seventeen from 1975 to 1993. While a nun, she taught and became a principal of a school in a largely Latino section of the city; after much soul-searching, she asked to be released from her vows, headed to Greenwich Village and began a career in publishing.

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Newtown Massacre Changes Plans at Movie and TV Studios

LOS ANGELES — When news broke about the massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, the USA cable channel jumped into action. Using key words like “shooting,” “school” and “children,” executives identified problematic episodes of shows like “Law Order: Special Victims Unit” and “NCIS” that were about to run.

Jane Blaney, the executive vice president of programming, thought the episodes should be removed and made that recommendation to Chris McCumber, a co-president of USA, who agreed. Substitutes were shown instead.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to have a process like this in place because of the recent history,” Mr. McCumber said.

USA was following established procedures for a quandary that has become all too common for Hollywood: how to react with compassion to horrific acts of violence while also protecting a business that often capitalizes on violent and crude entertainment.

Movie studios and television networks used to confront this balancing act a couple times a decade. But this year alone there have been three incidents that have required a crisis response — the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida last spring; the Aurora, Colo., movie-theater shooting over the summer; and now the Newtown school massacre.

The February shooting of an unarmed Mr. Martin by a community watch participant sent 20th Century Fox racing to retool the title of a comedy unfortunately called “Neighborhood Watch.” (It was called just “The Watch” at its July release.) The July deaths at a Colorado multiplex initiated a major show business scramble, particularly at Warner Brothers, which released the Batman movie that had been playing in the theater. Newtown is proving to be even more problematic.

The national grief and outrage at the massacre — 27 people killed, most of them young children — has been so strong that many movie studios and television networks have been forced to make more changes to their publicity campaigns and nightly lineups than first anticipated. Typically, industry executives say, the fallout is contained within the first day or two and then everyone moves on. But not this time.

And even though the Connecticut massacre has no direct connection to the movie industry, as Colorado did, executives are finding that the need for sensitivity crosses into all genres, even comedies, and extends to the lavish premieres the studios orchestrate, which they now fear will appear excessive and celebratory.

On Tuesday, studios were still weighing what to do with plans for coming movies, like “Not Fade Away,” an intimate drama, and the violent period thriller “Gangster Squad.” Paramount had decided by midday to press on with a premiere for “Not Fade Away” Tuesday night. Warner said in a statement that it had reviewed “Gangster Squad” materials “to ensure we are being sensitive when horrifying events such as these occur,” but added, “we intend to go forward with our plans for its release,” set for Jan. 11.

But other movie events scheduled for Tuesday were canceled or scaled back, including a planned red carpet spectacle in Los Angeles for Quentin Tarantino’s coming “Django Unchained,” a bloody period tale of an ex-slave in the Deep South. The Film Society of Lincoln Center on Tuesday sent out an e-mail announcing refunds for people who had purchased tickets for a canceled advance screening of “Jack Reacher,” which opens with a sniper scene and arrives in theaters on Friday. (Paramount also canceled a Pittsburgh premiere for “Jack Reacher,” which stars Tom Cruise, and removed from TV commercials images of Mr. Cruise firing a gun.)

Newtown has also prompted soul searching of a more personal kind in the entertainment capital. Hollywood’s power lunches have been filled in recent days with conversations about hypocrisy, according to people in the industry: Many of those who are liberal leaning and support gun control also make their livings selling violent images.

There is also a creeping dread in Hollywood that the entertainment industry will be drawn into a governmental crackdown on violent imagery. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday said that President Barack Obama — beyond hinting at new gun-control measures — planned to look at “other ways” to address this kind of violence. While he did not elaborate, Mr. Carney mentioned mental health, education and “perhaps” cultural issues as possibly contributing to gun violence

Mr. Carney also embraced a call by David M. Axelrod, the president’s election strategist, to rethink violent video games. “Every expert on this issue would, I think, agree with that, that there are cultural issues that contribute to the broader problem,” Mr. Carney said.

But there were already pockets of people in Hollywood pushing back on Tuesday — executives who maintain that, while tragic, the Newtown massacre had nothing to do with entertainment.

“What you hear from the industry is this: violence has always been a part of entertainment, back to Sophocles and Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe,” said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California. “Why should modern entertainment deprive itself of a universal and timeless element of storytelling?’”

Mr. Kaplan continued, “Violence is both a moneymaker — audiences love it — and an artist’s tool. Of course, it can be gratuitous. For every Scorsese or Peckinpah, there’s a schlockmeister who’s only in it for the dough. But who do we want to empower to decide whether Quentin Tarantino or a Grand Theft Auto goes over the line? The government? The industry? Or the audience, which is where Hollywood wants to put the control.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 19, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a filmmaker. He is Martin Scorsese, not Martin Scorcese.

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A Wave of Chinese Money Gives a Lift to Companies Struggling in Tough Times

The report, commissioned by the Asia Society and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, outlines the change in China’s priorities from attracting foreign investment to becoming a global purveyor of capital. While China has been investing to develop natural resources in Australia, Africa and elsewhere for years, the coming wave is different. It reflects China’s intention to expand its already enormous but still growing domestic market. To do so, Chinese companies that have mastered manufacturing must develop their distribution, marketing and innovation skills, all areas where American businesses could help.

While there is some concern that political tensions could get in the way, the investment money is a huge opportunity for American businesses. The following four small businesses, already the beneficiaries of such investments, illustrate the aims of Chinese investors and the benefits that American companies can take from them — including rescue from a very tough economy.

Solar Power Inc., of Roseville, Calif., received a $33 million investment in March from LDK Solar, a large Chinese manufacturer of solar cells. The American company, now seven years old and with 60 employees, installs solar arrays on commercial buildings, including on the roofs of Staples Center and the 20th Century Fox movie studios in Los Angeles. Solar Power initially focused on the United States residential market but that market collapsed in the recession. In 2010 the company’s sales declined to about $24 million and its losses increased.

So Stephen C. Kircher, Solar Power’s founder and chief executive, turned to commercial projects and attracted LDK Solar’s investment in exchange for 70 percent ownership of Solar Power. Mr. Kircher had met LDK executives in China through two California financial institutions, Roth Capital Partners in Newport Beach and East West Bank in Pasadena.

“LDK Solar’s investment will allow us to compete for many projects across the United States, not just one job at a time,” Mr. Kircher said. Indeed, Solar Power recently won a three-year job to provide engineering on solar energy projects in New York and New Jersey.

Why did LDK, which has $3.6 billion in annual sales of solar energy components, buy into Solar Power? “Their aim is to employ Chinese people,” Mr. Kircher said. “They will integrate their manufacturing with marketing and distribution on our solar panel projects and then have the know-how to help them in the emerging domestic economy in China.”

MVP RV of Riverside, Calif., a maker of recreational vehicles, was able to reopen its doors this year thanks to a big order and significant investment from Winston Battery of Shenzhen, China. Brad B. Williams, Roger J. Humeston, and Pablo Carmona had purchased MVP, a motor home and travel trailer operation, in July 2008 from their employer, Thor Industries. At that time, MVP had 440 employees and close to $100 million in sales, Mr. Williams said.

Two months later, the recession began and demand for recreational vehicles collapsed. Gradually, employees were laid off, and the company closed its factory “to preserve capital,” Mr. Williams said.

“We went through more than 40 presentations trying to raise capital, with no luck,” Mr. Williams said. “But then we got a call from somebody asking us to visit Winston Battery in Shenzhen.” There the partners met Winston Chung, an entrepreneur whose company makes lithium ion batteries. “We hit it off immediately,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Chung gave MVP an order for a few motor homes that got the company working again. Then early this year, Winston Battery gave MVP a $5 billion order for 10,000 motor homes — which can cost from $100,000 apiece to more than $1 million — and 20,000 smaller vehicles over the next three years.

The Chinese company also began an investment “that will ultimately amount to $310 million, making Mr. Chung the majority owner of our company,” Mr. Williams said. As a result, he added, the original partners will have “a smaller piece of a bigger pie.”

The company is now back up to 250 employees and plans to take on about 1,000 more in the next few years. “We are building prototypes for the China market now,” Mr. Williams said. The recreational vehicles on order will be diesel-powered, he said, “but we will work with Winston Battery to develop electric-powered vehicles in the next few years.”

Synthesis Energy Systems, of Houston, recently got an $84 million investment from Zhongjixuan Investment Management, of Beijing, which will assist Synthesis in developing new ventures in China. Synthesis Energy was introduced to Zhongjixuan Investment, also known as ZJX, through a Chinese business associate who helped arrange a gas-from-coal energy project in China in 2006.

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Scuffle Over On-Demand Movies Portends Battles to Come

The blow-up is between studios and theater owners over a plan to slip some movies into homes through on-demand video shortly after they arrive in theaters. For Mr. Dodd, the new chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, it is the first industry crisis since he started in late March.

“I’m the new kid on the block,” Mr. Dodd said in an interview by phone on Friday, acknowledging that both his relative inexperience and the need to stay out of business decisions made by individual studios had kept him largely out of the battle. “Each company has to make up its own mind.”

Studios, exhibitors and filmmakers are arguing about the future of the business, and whether people in coming years will be more likely to watch movies in theaters or in increasingly sophisticated home setups mimicking the quality, immediacy and, perhaps, cost, of today’s theatrical experience.

Last week, four studios — Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Brothers — took the first step in their arrangement with DirecTV to release films two months after their theatrical release.

The first premium on-demand offering came on Thursday, as DirecTV offered Sony’s “Just Go With It,” with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, for $30. Two dozen filmmakers, including James Cameron and Peter Jackson, fired back with an open letter criticizing the experiment as a threat to theaters.

The fight separated allies who had recently joined to spend billions of dollars to upgrade theaters for digital and 3-D projection, and had used their combined political might to thwart proposed trading in a financial exchange based on box office revenue.

The rift underscores how little Mr. Dodd or anyone else can do to buffer the jolts in a film business where the greatest challenges are not the labor disputes or public policy battles that were wrangled by past Hollywood statesmen like the MCA chairman Lew R. Wasserman or the long-serving M.P.A.A. chief Jack Valenti.

Rather, the greatest challenges are philosophical and include business choices largely outside the reach of a trade association, which is limited by antitrust law from interfering in decisions that are really about business rather than public policy — hence Mr. Dodd’s unaccustomed restraint. In fact, the difficulties facing the industry are likely to become tougher as film companies feel their way toward a digital future that is only beginning to unfold.

“What’s really going on is that the architecture of the industry is changing,” said Jeff Berg, chairman of the International Creative Management agency.

Speaking by telephone last week, Mr. Berg predicted increasingly rapid waves of change that would overtake the movie business, as companies struggle to replace disappearing DVD revenue with income from both digitally enhanced theaters and new approaches, like so-called digital lockers, that will allow viewers to store films they have paid for in a pirate-proof virtual space that permits repeat viewing.

“There’s a big narrative that’s going to be very disruptive,” Mr. Berg said.

The fierce response by executives from big movie chains like Cinemark, AMC and Regal to the studios’ relatively cautious step with on-demand is clearly more about setting a line for future battles than it is about losing money from an Adam Sandler comedy that left most theaters weeks ago.

“I have not felt this level of concern about a practice of the studios among our members,” said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, which helped organize the filmmakers’ protest letter (in keeping with that association’s view that it can to some extent oppose the plan without violating the antitrust laws that have held back the M.P.A.A.).

Mr. Fithian, also speaking last week, said theater owners had been particularly shocked about the way they learned of the on-demand program: while they were gathered last month at the CinemaCon movie convention in Las Vegas, shortly after Mr. Dodd delivered an address voicing enthusiasm for the moviegoing experience. The report appeared on the Web site of the trade publication Variety.

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Media Decoder: Former Senator Dodd Reaches Out to Washington Press Corps

Last week, members of the press and others got an invitation to a Washington cocktails and hors d’oeuvres reception from the Motion Picture Association of America, of which Mr. Dodd is now chairman, to honor what it called “our member company White House correspondents.”

Christopher Dodd is now head of the Motion Picture Association of America.Chris Pizzello/Associated Press Christopher Dodd is now head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Strictly speaking, the six studios in the movie trade association — Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers and Walt Disney Studios — don’t have much in the way of White House correspondents.

But some of their corporate cousins, like the Fox, NBC and ABC networks, have political correspondents galore — and Mr. Dodd has decided to entertain some of them with the help of the chef Mike Isabella and the comedian Seth Meyers at a reception scheduled for Friday.

“It seemed like a good way to bring people by,” Mr. Dodd said, when queried about the event last week.

The wording of the invitation, said Mr. Dodd, wasn’t intended to signal that the movie association planned to extend its reach beyond movies. But another Washington press mixer, with a little Hollywood cachet, could do no harm, he figured.

“I thought we might start a little tradition,” Mr. Dodd said.

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