Bolster growth by protecting creativity worldwide

This week, I traveled to the film industry trade show CinemaCon in Las Vegas where I spoke to thousands of movie theater owners and operators about the state of the film and television industry. 2013 was a landmark year for the movies, with creators like Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuaron and Alexander Payne telling stories that challenged our imaginations.  But our industry has its own story to tell, too: as technological innovation brings the world closer, it has helped push our industry into new markets, making it easier than ever to access American movies and television shows in countries around the world.   

At CinemaCon, I unveiled the 2013 Theatrical Market Statistics report, our annual report that offers a snapshot of the state of box office in the previous year.  The most staggering statistic from this year’s report is the rise in the international market, up 5 percent from last year to a historic high of $25 Billion. That’s an incredible 33 percent increase over the past 5 years.  Growing markets in Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and of course China are responsible for this meteoric rise. China was again the number one international market this year, and the first international market to eclipse $3 Billion.  Worldwide box office for all films released around the world continues to grow, as well, and reached another historic high in 2013 of $35.9 billion, up 4% from last year.  The global audience is a major consumer of our industry’s work.

Which brings us back to Washington.  These numbers are an important reminder that In order to promote legitimate digital trade overseas, we must be committed to policies that protect American companies’ intellectual property abroad.  Doing so allows them to compete in foreign markets and in turn grow the economy back home.  That’s why we need a high-standard, commercially-meaningful Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  

The movies and TV shows made here in the U.S. tell stories that resonate with people around the globe, and as a result, the film and television industry has become one of this country’s most important and most consistent exports. We are an industry that boasted a positive services trade surplus of $12.2 billion in 2011 -- 6 percent of the total U.S. private sector trade surplus in services. And we are an industry that supports nearly 2 million jobs and $41 billion in spending right here in the United States. To put it simply: as our industry expands globally, it directly benefits businesses and workers domestically.

And we are just one important slice of the IP-industry pie.  According to a recent report by NDP Analytics, IP-intensive companies account for nearly half of total private sector output in the United States, and account for approximately 74 percent of our exports in 2011.  Beyond the motion picture and television industry, these jobs support 8.1 million workers. 

But don’t let the success of the big hits fool you: filmmaking is a risky business. Only 4 out of every 10 films turn a profit.  This means artists and creators must take financial risk – sometimes working for free for years—with the hope that one of their projects takes off. Their ability to create extraordinary experiences for audiences is contingent upon getting paid for their efforts. On the global stage, they depend on our government to advocate for the same high-standard of copyright protections enjoyed by artists in the United States.

And beyond the stories of American creators, there are the stories of emerging filmmakers in developing countries whose perspectives we so desperately need to hear. Visionaries like Haifaa al-Mansour, the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia, or Yariv Mozer, who sheds light on the previously untold story of gay Palestinian refugees hiding in Israel, depend on a stable global market and deserve to have their groundbreaking work adequately protected so that they can continue to tell stories so fundamental to the human experience.  

The future for the film and television industry is one that continues to embrace innovative distribution systems and transcend borders to bring compelling content to a global audience.  In doing so, it will also support jobs and economic growth here at home.  I urge Congress to continue to work with the Administration to negotiate a TPP that places a premium on protecting and incentivizing creativity around the globe.

Dodd served as senator from Connecticut from 1981 to 2011. He is currently the president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.