UPDATED with MPAA statement below: Fox CEO James Murdoch needs to “take some time to learn how [the movie business] works,” National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian says today in a note to Deadline, picking up a gauntlet that Murdoch threw down yesterday.

On Friday, the MPAA’s Chris Dodd weighed in the issue, saying, “It is unfortunate that Mr. Murdoch’s productive point about innovation provoked such a strong reaction from the National Association of Theatre Owners.” Read his full statement below.

 

The entertainment mogul told an investor gathering that studios “have to think about these crazy hold-backs that theater owners put in place — these blackout periods.”

He raised the possiblity of offering premium electronic sell-through, noting that “a customer really doesn’t care that there’s this National Association of Theatre Owners” that wants members to have exclusive access to films for about 90 days before they move to other venues.

Responding to those comments, as reported here, Fithian says that “substantive, private conversations with exhibition’s long-time studio partners have taken place without self-serving public pronouncements, and are taking place currently with several major studios including Twentieth Century Fox.”

He also warned Murdoch to “be careful he doesn’t undermine that trust” that’s been built up between exhibitors and Fox.

And the NATO chief ends with a zinger: “Welcome to the movie industry Mr. Murdoch. We hope you’ll take some time to learn how it works.”

Here’s Fithian’s response in full, followed by Friday’s MPAA statement:

To the Editors and Staff of Deadline:

In a Deadline column yesterday by David Lieberman, entitled “James Murdoch Warns Fox Will Fight Movie Theaters’ ‘Crazy’ Restrictions,” Mr. Lieberman quotes comments made by Mr. Murdoch before the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in Manhattan. Specifically, Lieberman reported that Mr. Murdoch said, “ ‘We have to think about these crazy hold-backs that theater owners put in place – these blackout periods. A customer really doesn’t care that there’s this National Association of Theatre Owners’ that wants members to have exclusive access to films for about 90 days before they move to other venues.”

Because Mr. Murdoch is new to the film business and seems to be in a bit of a rush, we’d like to help him get the record straight:

1: The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has never issued any policies or recommendations about the specific appropriate length of theatrical release windows. Such competitive terms are to be negotiated between individual distributors and exhibitors in the best interest of their companies.

2: NATO has argued that a period of exclusivity of theatrical release is important for movie theaters and the entire movie industry.

3: NATO has also called (since at least 2010) for dialogue between movie distributors and exhibitors to find more sophisticated release models that might grow the pie for everyone.

4: Those substantive, private conversations with exhibition’s long-time studio partners have taken place without self-serving public pronouncements, and are taking place currently with several major studios including Twentieth Century Fox.

5: Fox and its distribution team have long been and continue to be trusted and valued partners for exhibitors. Mr. Murdoch should be careful he doesn’t undermine that trust.

Welcome to the movie industry Mr. Murdoch. We hope you’ll take some time to learn how it works.

John Fithian

NATO

Dodd’s full statement:

“Motion picture studios and theater owners both play critical roles in bringing high value creative content to millions of people every day.

“Yesterday, Mr. James Murdoch of Fox spoke about the need to explore new and innovative ways to reach audiences, a goal we all recognize and support.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Murdoch’s productive point about innovation provoked such a strong reaction from the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). While we appreciate that NATO acknowledged the need for innovation and the fact that this conversation is already ongoing, the unfortunate personal nature of the statement detracts from the shared goal of delivering great content to movie audiences.

“I hope that all parties in the movie industry can continue to focus on this commitment.”