Upon arriving in Paris as the brand new U.S. ambassador to France & Monaco in 2009, Charles Rivkin used his show business pedigree to charm President Nicolas Sarkozy with a present: a framed poster of Rita Hayworth.
It was a smooth move for Rivkin, whom President Obama chose for the role after a 20-year profession within the entertainment business, together with stints at Jim Henson Co. & â€œYo Gabba Gabbaâ€� producer WildBrain.
â€œI witnessed first-hand the impact entertainment has on the planet,â€� Rivkin, 55, stated of his time within the Foreign Service. â€œIt’s a shining beacon of what our country stands for.â€�
Rivkinâ€™s diplomatic expertise are about to be put to their biggest test still as he takes the helm of the Motion Picture Assn. of America this current week, replacing Christopher Dodd, who has held the job since 2011. Rivkin would be the top Washington lobbyist for Hollywood at a time of amazing uncertainty driven by changes in consumer conduct.
The job of MPAA chief has long been thought-about one of many hardest gigs within the entertainment business, even throughout the times of the late Jack Valenti, who ran the organization for 4 decades until he retired in 2004.
The most noteworthy challenge: to wrangle consensus amongst six major studios â€” Disney, Universal, Warner Bros., Fox, Sony & Paramount â€” whose pursuits typically conflict. The- organization, for instance, has-been reluctant to weigh in on the fierce debate over the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality guidelines.
â€œIt’s a really troublesome job,â€� stated Jeff Shell, chairman of Comcast Corp.â€™s Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. â€œWe need the MPAA to be a robust advocate for things in that enhance the business collectively & work out the best way to address the world 'cause it changes.â€�
Certainly, the MPAAâ€™s role has turn out to be solely more complex in current years of time of time as the list of challenges gets longer and much more formidable.
The domestic box workplace, which for years of time of time has confronted long-term stagnation in theater attendance, just wrapped up its least-attended summer time movie season in 25 years of time of time. Studios are stressed to work out the way to make movies obtainable for home viewing more quickly after their theatrical releases, still none agree how to take action.
On-line piracy continues to eat in to studio profits & disruption by Silicon Valley is driving consolidation amongst media conglomerates. Warner Bros.â€™ parent company, Time Warner Inc., is within the strategy of being acquired by AT&T, pending authorities approval.
The MPAA doesnâ€™t have the type of influence it once did as tech giants reminiscent of Google & Fb have increased their clout in Washington.
â€œItâ€™s a totally totally different business now,â€� stated John Emerson, former U.S. ambassador to Germany who has known Rivkin for years of time of time. â€œCharlie has these expertise in that will assist him navigate what’s a way more complex job than it was when it was 1st created.â€�
Complicating matters, Rivkin might be coping with a Trump administration in that has-been brazenly hostile to people connected to the Obama administration, and particularly Hollywood elite, who usually backed Hillary Clinton.
If in that each one sounds daunting, you wouldnâ€™t accomplish it from speaking to Rivkin. Speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., the previous ambassador sounded ebullient concerning the tasks ahead.
â€œThis is probably the most effective job on the earth,â€� stated Rivkin, who starts Tues.. â€œMy objective is to chart the course for fulfillment in a world that’s accelerating terribly quicklyâ€¦. The- essence of diplomacy is finding frequent ground, and there is loads of frequent ground in this business.â€�
As for the Trump administration, Rivkin states the entertainment business is more aligned with the presidentâ€™s agenda than it appears.
â€œWhat we’d like to do is get the word out & assist everybody perceive in that if you spend cash on this business, you spend cash on American jobs,â€� he stated.
One of his key priorities at the MPAA might be to ramp up the organizationâ€™s anti-piracy efforts, both within the U.S. & overseas. Under Dodd, who will keep at the organization until the complete of the yr, the MPAA waged profitable battles against piracy on several fronts, still the group suffered an embarrassing defeat by the hands of Google & different tech giants in 2012 due to the failure of the Stop On-line Piracy Act, referred to as SOPA.
More just lately, Dodd & the MPAA forged an unlikely partnership with technology corporations together with Netflix & Amazon to combat copyright theft across the world. How these efforts will unfold remains to be seen, still building on in that pact (often known as ACE) by forging alliances with Silicon Valley might be key.
â€œThis alliance is now going to assist us tremendously within the fight against piracy,â€� Rivkin stated.
Rivkin stated another key task shall be to guage the MPAAâ€™s most thankless job: in that of assigning parental guidance ratings to Hollywoodâ€™s theatrical films. Judges have stated the ratings are inconsistent & at times arbitrary. An R-rating for transgender film â€œ3 Generationsâ€� just lately sparked a backlash from the Weinstein Co.
Maybe probably the most pressing task is in China, which remains a vitally cultured foreign market despite a cooling of the box workplace there. Rivkin plans to work with U.S. authorities officers to extend the assortment of movies the studios can release under a revenue sharing agreement with the Chinese language authorities. The- present quota permits solely 34 foreign movies in to the country yearly under a deal during which studios collect 25% of ticket sales. He additionally sees hope sooner or after of co-productions between U.S. & Chinese language corporations.
â€œIt’s an unlimited alternative for the American studios,â€� Rivkin stated. Expanding the quota will â€œabsolutely be at the top of my list once I become involved.â€�
Rivkinâ€™s background in politics & business has uniquely ready him for his new job. His father, revered diplomat William R. Rivkin, served as ambassador to Luxembourg, Senegal & Gambia under presidents Kennedy & Johnson.
& as a university student at Yale, the young Rivkin contemplated following in his fatherâ€™s footsteps, still he ultimately pursued a profession within the personal sector. After getting his MBA from Harvard, Rivkin brought much-needed business acumen to the tight-knit, family-run Jim Henson Co.
â€œWhen Jim hired me, there have been no different MBAs within the historical past of the company, so we had to do each one thing from scratch,â€� Rivkin stated. â€œI worked intently with Jim to wash up the business.â€�
After Henson died in 1990, Rivkin worked with Brian Henson to grow the company when few in Hollywood believed it might continue with out its visionary founder & he eventually became its president.
â€œAfter my dad died, everybody in Hollywood thought the company was done,â€� stated Brian Henson, chairman of Jim Henson Co. â€œWithin three years of time of time, we had a totally fledged Muppet movie.â€�
Rivkin engineered the sale of the company for $680 million in 2000. Later, after the Henson family bought the company back, he helped bargain the sale of rights to â€œThe Muppetsâ€� & â€œBear within the Big Blue Houseâ€� to Walt Disney Co. in 2004 for an undisclosed quantity.
Rivkin ventured additional in to children programming the subsequent yr when he became Chief Executive Officer of San Francisco-based WildBrain, which produced childrenâ€™s shows & commercials.
In the meantime, Rivkin kept one foot in politics, engaged on John Kerryâ€™s 2004 presidential marketing campaign. He served as Calif. finance co-chair for Barack Obamaâ€™s 2008 run at the presidency, corralling high-profile donors, lots of whom have been entertainment business elite. He raised $500,000 for the marketing crusade & played a key role uniting Hollywood behind the young senator after he defeated vanquished Hillary Clinton for the nomination.
His twin pursuits in politics & entertainment converged after Obamaâ€™s victory, when Rivkin became the youngest ambassador to France in 56 years of time of time. Fluent in French, he used his show business connections to enhance Americaâ€™s image in France, particularly within the low-income communities in Parisâ€™ banlieues, or suburbs. He brought Samuel L. Jackson to speak to young Parisians, who knew the actor from â€œPulp Fiction.â€� He additionally organized a concert by Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am & an appearance by Jodie Foster, a flawless French speaker.
â€œThat was his instinct, & he saw in that as an area where he might really make an enormous distinction,â€� stated Emerson, the previous ambassador to Germany. â€œI thought in that was proactively visionary of Charlie.â€�
In 2014, he was sworn in as assistant secretary of State for economic & business affairs, where his duties included the safety of international property rights. In India, for instance, Rivkin pushed ways to stem the rise of digital piracy, together with legislation against video recording in movie theaters.
Rivkinâ€™s knowledge of piracy & different key issues, plus his experience running companies & coping with Washington & international governments â€” to not point out fragile Hollywood egos â€” made him a super selection to steer the MPAA, executives stated.
â€œOne of the things in that was really evident was Charlieâ€™s passion for the economic impact & cultural impact of entertainment across the world,â€� stated Kevin Tsujihara, Chief Executive Officer of Warner Bros. â€œI knew he was going to be an unimaginable advocate for what we do.â€�
For his part, Rivkin stated he was on the lookout for a task in that might mix his pursuits in media & authorities. He recollects a lesson imparted again and again by Jim Henson in that media can be used as a source of superior on the planet. The- same, he argues, can be stated of presidency.
â€œI stated to myself, â€˜I’m wondering if a job exists where I can serve both passions,â€™â€� he stated. â€œIt turns out, this is the one one which does that.â€�