A Lasting Cultural and Economic Impact: MPA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin on the Role the Film Industry Plays on a Local and Global Level

Photo Courtesy Motion Picture Association

Having served at the helm of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) since 2018, Charles Rivkin is keenly aware of the current challenges and opportunities facing the entertainment industry. In this interview with Boxoffice Pro, the executive shares insights on his current projects and priorities with the MPA, as well as the industry’s lasting economic impact at a local and global level.

Our industry is often thought of in terms of one neighborhood in Los Angeles, but the truth is that the entertainment industry’s economic impact spans across the country and around the globe. The MPA has been closely involved in ensuring that local communities in the United States can optimize the benefits of having productions shoot locally. Can you speak on the economic impact that has on communities across America?

Our industry is global, by any measure, with productions up and running in every state across the country and nearly every nation around the world.

Looking at the landscape here at home, investments in the film, TV, and streaming industry support more than 2.74 million jobs—jobs that deliver over $242 billion in wages and pay 62 percent higher than the national average salary.

It’s not just reaching the bank accounts of actors, directors, writers, and producers. It’s benefitting set builders, hair and makeup artists, visual effects artists, stunt performers, caterers, concession stand workers at your local theater, and so many more. And it’s boosting the small businesses that fuel our broader economy, as our industry is comprised of a network of more than 122,000 small businesses across all 50 states—92 percent of which employ fewer than 10 people.

Here’s another way to think about it: On average, a feature film adds $21.8 million to the economy when it shoots and pays out $11.7 million on local wages, which is over 50 percent of the local spend. Every day a film is in production, it adds $670,000 on average to the local economy. And when a big-budget film comes to town, that’s over $1.3 million added to the local economy on a daily basis.

Given this massive economic impact, it’s no surprise that so many states want to incentivize production. Currently, 38 states have programs and policies designed to entice film, TV, and streaming into their backyards and enable local communities to benefit directly from the economic strength of an industry that is no longer confined to Hollywood and New York.

And, of course, that impact isn’t limited to the United States. What is the effect of a vibrant production market in different territories abroad?

MPA studios are coproducing and investing in more local productions daily in dozens of markets worldwide. With every new production, they generate countless benefits to local economies—good jobs, growing tax revenue, improved infrastructure, boosted tourism, and more.

In Europe, for example, the creative sector employs 15 million people—making it the EU’s third largest employer—and it accounts for 4.4 percent of the EU GDP. That’s far greater than contributions from the telecommunications, pharmaceutical, or even the automotive industry. MPA members are major investors in Europe’s creative and cultural media environment. On average, MPA member companies bring a 29-million-euro investment per feature film production in Europe, including more than 1,100 local jobs and 11 million euros in local wages.

Meanwhile, Australia’s incentive program has triggered record-breaking growth in that country’s production pipeline. One study shows that every Australian dollar invested in the Location Offset and incentive equates to almost six dollars in impacts, and total investment tied to the whole program has contributed AU$16.5 billion in economic output over a four-year period. In 2022 alone, MPA member companies spent almost $1.2 billion (excluding wages) directly at local Australian businesses.

Piracy remains an ongoing battle that affects every sector of the entertainment industry. How have MPA departments and initiatives, such as ACE, helped curve the spread of piracy in the modern era?

Since its launch in 2017, ACE has become the world’s leading anti-piracy coalition. Powered by almost 60 members based in more than 20 countries around the globe, ACE’s global team works with local law enforcement authorities, government officials, and other partners to put commercial piracy operators on notice: If you are pirating films, TV shows, or live sports broadcasts, we will find you and shut you down.

And we’re making progress: ACE has helped shut down more than 1,100 sites in North America alone since 2018.

Even with this progress, piracy is an ongoing battle that demands a consistent, comprehensive response. That’s why the MPA supports efforts in the U.S. Congress to enact site-blocking laws that combat blatant forms of piracy. More than 40 other countries, including leading democracies, have implemented site-blocking laws, and along the way, they’ve effectively disabled access to more than 90,000 domains used by over 27,000 piracy websites.

The evidence is clear. These laws work. We should implement them in the United States too.

What have been some of the most significant achievements of ACE and the MPA in the last year?

It’s been a busy and productive year for the MPA and ACE. The MPA worked with local coalitions in the United States to secure almost $8 billion in new budget allocations for production incentives last year—creating thousands of middle-class jobs and pumping millions of dollars into local economies.

The MPA continued working to protect and enhance incentive programs in key states, including New York, California, Georgia, New Jersey, and Louisiana, and in countries worldwide, including Australia, Austria, Canada, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand, and Spain.

Last September, the MPA also drove the Streaming Innovation Alliance (SIA) launch, led by a bipartisan team with deep expertise in technology, telecom, internet, and digital policy. This alliance advocates for federal and state policies that build on the strong, competitive, and pro-consumer market for streaming video.

Meanwhile, ACE was a key driver behind shutting down dozens of large-scale piracy operations, benefitting all members. Last year, ACE also launched a Sports Piracy Task Force to tackle the piracy operations that increasingly threaten live sports broadcasting and streaming.

The global network of partners that powers ACE’s progress also continues to grow. In February, we expanded our network in Latin America by welcoming our newest member, Venezuelan TV provider Simpletv. And we look forward to announcing other new members soon.

This is an industry built on innovation. What is the MPA’s role in ensuring that the next generation of storytellers can continue contributing to our industry’s success?

What we do to train the next generation of storytellers today will determine the shape of this iconic industry tomorrow. At the MPA and throughout our member studios, we have been actively advocating for training programs, fellowships, and other initiatives that equip young workers with the skills and opportunities they’ll need to believe in themselves, their ideas, and their potential.

When I spoke about this important topic at the Berlinale recently, I said there is an existential need for the MPA and our member companies to get this right. Offering young talent and rising stars the education, support, and platforms they need to tell their stories is key to our industry’s future.

The MPA and its member studios are front and center, alongside local partners, in the effort to recruit and train young talent to drive the next era of innovation. We’re working to ensure the next wave of rising stars reflects the diversity of the world we inhabit, and we’re seeking to amplify the voices of populations largely unseen, unheard, and underrepresented for far too long.

Photo Courtesy Motion Picture Association

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