MPAA shake-up: Chairman Christopher Dodd to be replaced by Charles Rivkin

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Christopher Dodd, who has served as chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, the film industry's main lobbying group, for the past six years, is stepping down.

Charles Rivkin, the former assistant Secretary of State for economic and business affairs under President Barack Obama, will succeed him, the MPAA announced Friday. The MPAA board will meet Saturday to officially name Rivkin, who is expected to assume his new post on Sept. 5.

Before his stint at the State Department, which ran from 2014 to this year, Rivkin, who speaks fluent French, served as U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco. Before that, he spent nearly 20 years in Hollywood as president and CEO of the Jim Henson Co. and then as CEO of Wildbrain, so he has developed relationships in both Hollywood and Washington. His knowledge of global economic policy is considered an asset as Hollywood continues to expand into global markets.

"With entertainment and government in his background, Charlie is uniquely and ideally suited for his new post at the MPAA," Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros., said in a statement accompanying the MPAA's announcement. "His experience in creative affairs, business and policy making will be extremely valuable as the MPAA and its member studios navigate a rapidly evolving and increasingly complex global entertainment landscape."

Said Rivkin: "In today's digital world, the mission and function of the MPAA are more important than ever. Chris has done a great job, and I'm excited to work with the member studios to continue to expand the global market for entertainment content while ensuring creators' rights are respected around the world."

A former Democratic senator from Connecticut, Dodd was brought on in 2011 to represent the Hollywood studios' interests in Washington. His contract, which was extended in June 2015, was to have run through 2018. Dodd was conspicuously absent at the cinema owners' CinemaCon convention in March — an annual event in which the MPAA chief presents a state-of-the-industry report — because, it was explained, of competing family obligations.

In announcing the change in leadership, the MPAA cited Dodd's role in "helping move the MPAA into the digital age" by signing content protection agreements with more than 20 foreign governments and by taking action against pirate sites such as MegaUpload. It also credited him with expanding the U.S. presence in China with 2012 and 2015 agreements that increased the U.S. studios' share of revenue from the Chinese box office.

"Chris has transformed the MPAA into a global association for the digital era and dramatically increased access around the world for U.S. films and television programming," said Alan Horn, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. "With over 70 percent of total box office revenue generated overseas, and increasing focus on television and OTT content, Chris's engagement and effective negotiation in these arenas developed impressive results."

While Dodd was already an established Washington player when he took on the MPAA job, he never developed the commanding profile of the MPAA's most legendary head, Jack Valenti, who headed the group from 1966-2004. 

In 2012, Dodd and the MPAA pushed for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which was opposed by Google and a score of websites before it was eventually tabled. Dodd also drew criticism when the MPAA failed to move quickly and forcefully to support Sony Pictures when it was hit by a massive cyberattack in 2014.

At the same time, heading the MPAA has become a more challenging position since the organization's six member studios — Disney, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. — all have corporate owners who often have competing agendas.--The Hollywood Reporter