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Hollywood Execs Admit Bad Judgment

September 27, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hollywood executives admitted today that violent films were test-marketed before audiences that included children as young as 9 years old. Questioned by angry senators, a Sony executive called the practice a lapse in judgment.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, said that if the industry doesn’t take steps to keep violent films away from young children ``you’re going to see some kind of legislation.″

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, Mel Harris, president of Sony, parent company of Columbia Picture, called the test-marketing of a violent PG-13 film before the younger audience ``a judgment lapse.″ The film was ``The Fifth Element,″ an action science fiction story starring Bruce Willis.

Other industry executives said much of the test marketing was done by an independent company, National Research Group, not by the companies that produce the films.

The hearing took place the day after the Motion Picture Association of America said the industry would stop ``inappropriately specifically″ targeting children in advertising R-rated movies.

However, Stacy Snider, chairman of Universal Studios, when asked specifically whether they would market R-rated films on teen Web sites, said there might be ``some R-rated films we would take to a teen site.″

The industry’s practice of test marketing violent films to child audiences came to light in a front-page story in Wednesday’s New York Times.

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