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Motion Picture Association- Alternate titles: MPAA, MPPDA, Motion Picture Association of America

Motion Picture Association
Alternate titles: MPAA, MPPDA, Motion Picture Association of America
By The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica • Edit History
Date: 1922 - present

Areas Of Involvement: film censorship public relations distribution 

Motion Picture Production Code
Related People: Chris Dodd Will H. Hays
Motion Picture Association (MPA), formerly (1922–45) Motion Picture 

Producers and Distributors of America and (1945–2019) Motion Picture 

Association of America, in the United States, organization of the 

major motion-picture studios that rates movies for suitability to 

various kinds of audiences, aids the studios in international 

distribution, advises them on taxation, works to prevent film piracy, 

and carries on a nationwide public relations program for the industry. 

The MPA, originally called the Motion Picture Producers and 

Distributors of America (MPPDA) and later the Motion Picture 

Association of America (MPAA), was established in 1922 by the major 

Hollywood production studios in response to increasing government 

censorship of films, which arose in turn from a general public outcry 

against both indecency on the screen and various scandals involving 

movie celebrities. The MPPDA, popularly called the Hays Office for its 

first director, Will H. Hays, codified the complaints of local 

censoring boards and informed producers of their views. Hollywood in 

effect opted to censor its own productions rather than allow the 

government to censor them.

In 1930 the Hays Office adopted the Motion Picture Production Code, a 

detailed description of what was morally acceptable on the screen. 

Under the guidance of Jack Valenti—MPAA president (1966–2004) and 

former adviser to U.S. Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson—the code was 

liberalized in 1966 after it had become hopelessly outdated and 

ineffective because of the more relaxed social and sexual mores of the 

time. In 1968 the MPAA set up a rating board that classified films as 

G, M, R, and X. After various changes the MPA ratings are now as 

follows: G, for general audiences; PG, parental guidance suggested; 

PG-13, parents strongly cautioned, because film contains material 

inappropriate for children under 13; R, restricted to adults and to 

children under 17 accompanied by parent or guardian; and NC-17, no 

children under 17 admitted.

A studio system is a method of filmmaking wherein the production and 

distribution of films is dominated by a small number of large movie 

studios. It is most often used in reference to Hollywood motion 

picture studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood from the 1920s to 

1960s, wherein studios produced films primarily on their own 

filmmaking lots with creative personnel under often long-term 

contract, and dominated exhibition through vertical integration, i.e., 

the ownership or effective control of distributors and exhibition, 

guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking 

techniques such as block booking.

The studio system was challenged under the antitrust laws in a 1948 

Supreme Court ruling which sought to separate production from the 

distribution and exhibition and ended such practices, thereby 

hastening the end of the studio system. By 1954, with television 

competing for audience and the last of the operational links between a 

major production studio and theater chain broken, the historic era of 

the studio system was over.

The period stretching from the introduction of sound motion pictures 

to the beginning of the demise of the studio system, 1927–1948, is 

referred to by some film historians as the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

The Golden Age is a purely technical distinction and not to be 

confused with the style in film criticism known as Classical Hollywood 

cinema, a style of American film which developed from 1917 to 1963 and 

characterizes it to this day. During the so-called Golden Age, eight 

companies constituted the major studios that promulgated the Hollywood 

studio system. Of these eight, five were fully integrated 

conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, 

distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting 

with performers and filmmaking personnel:

Loews Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater chain and 

parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Paramount Pictures
Warner Brothers Pictures
20th Century-Fox (later renamed 20th Century Studios)
RKO Radio Pictures
Two majors—Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures—were similarly 

organized, though they never owned more than small theater circuits.
The eighth of the Golden Age majors, United Artists, owned a small 

number of theaters and had access to two production facilities owned 

by members of its controlling partnership group, but it functioned 

primarily as a backer-distributor, financing independent productions 

and releasing their films.

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