»  National Review Online

September 19, 2000

   Closing Down Hollywood

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LITTLE ROCK (AP) 9/1/06 — The $246 billion deal with the movie companies won near-unanimous support Friday as a deadline passed for states to accept the proposal aimed at resolving remaining state claims for the cost of dealing with personal and social problems caused by movie violence.

Massachusetts and Maryland, which had been considered potential defectors from the multi-state agreement, announced their support Friday along with 12 other last-minute signers.

Forty-three states indicated they would sign the agreement as of midday. Among the other last-minute signees were Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. Decisions were awaited from Delaware, Illinois and Wyoming.

The settlement calls for movie companies to make payments to 46 states over 25 years and finance counselling and treatment programs in exchange for resolving remaining state claims for victims of violence or psychological problems caused by movies, and for law enforcement costs arising from movie-induced acts of criminality.

"Quite frankly, there are many things that this agreement accomplishes, particularly in the public health arena, that we could not achieve through our lawsuit here in Arkansas," state Attorney General Susan McDougal said Friday. Arkansas would get about $4.8 billion over 25 years …

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WASHINGTON (AP) 9/21/06 — The Justice Department sued the movie industry Wednesday to recover billions of dollars taxpayers have spent on movie-related social and psychiatric disorders, accusing movie-makers of a "coordinated campaign of fraud and deceit."

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here alleges the movie companies conspired since the 1960s to defraud and mislead the American public and to conceal information about the effects on moviegoers of profane language, sexual explicitness and graphic depictions of violence.

"Sex, violence and bad language in movies are the nation's largest preventable cause of personal and social dysfunction, and American taxpayers should not have to bear the responsibility for the staggering costs," Attorney General Johnnie Cochran said. "For more than 45 years, the movie companies conducted their business without regard to the truth, the law, or the health of the American people."

The suit names Time Warner Inc., Miramax Films, The Walt Disney Company, Universal Pictures, Viacom, Inc., News Corp. and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

In the complaint, the U.S. government alleges that "for the past 43 years, the companies that produce and sell movies have waged an intentional, coordinated campaign of fraud and deceit."

President Clinton issued a written statement declaring that "the Justice Department is taking the right course of action. It is time for America's taxpayers to have their day in court." She would not comment on why the action had come at this particular time.

Cochran announced the department is formally closing, without charges, a nearly 5-year-old criminal investigation of whether movie companies lied to Congress or regulatory agencies about the deleterious social and psychological effects of moviegoing.

"We are moving forward," Cochran, joined by acting Assistant Attorney Karenna Gore Schiff, told a news conference Wednesday …

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MIAMI (AP) 11/8/06 — While public attention has been focused on the movie companies' $246 billion settlement with 46 state governments, lawyers in a Miami courtroom have been quietly arguing a lawsuit on behalf of Florida moviegoers.

This is no mere footnote to the national settlement - it seeks at least $200 billion in damages for a potential 500,000 Floridians. And it's the first class-action lawsuit by moviegoers to go to trial.

The class of plaintiffs is represented by just nine people, including Ambrose Gumm, parent of 11-year-old Horace Gumm, who was killed, cooked and eaten by classmates following a screening of Lord of the Flies, and Clarissa Gomez, whose hands and tongue were amputated by her husband shortly after the release of the 1997 hit Titus Andronicus — the Movie.

The suit names six movie companies and two industry groups, claiming either that movies made plaintiffs depressed and unable to function, or that they suffered injuries by attackers who had been inflamed by scenes of movie violence.

Movie-makers maintain that moviegoing is a personal choice, that millions of people have quit watching violent or sexually explicit movies, and that no connection between movie violence and actual violence has ever been proved …

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WASHINGTON (AP) 1/10/07 — The Supreme Court Monday permitted lawsuits by union health funds in Pennsylvania, Oregon and New York against the movie industry to go ahead, agreeing that their efforts to recover the cost of movie-related injuries and mental disorders came properly under federal racketeering and antitrust laws.

The lawsuits were patterned after similar claims by state governments. Those led to settlements in which the entertainment industry will pay the states $246 billion for health-care and law-and-order costs.

The Justice Department also sued the entertainment industry in September. Monday's court action will not affect that case.

The majority opinion, penned by Chief Justice Gregory Craig, stated firmly that …