$150,000 pledged to save LACMA film program [Update]
Responding to public outcry over the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's decision to end its 40-year-old weekend film program, two outside organizations have stepped forward to pledge a total of $150,000 in the fight to save the screening series.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which organizes the annual Golden Globe Awards, and Time Warner Cable, in association with Ovation TV, have each agreed to put up $75,000 toward the LACMA film program, which had been scheduled to close in October.
In addition, Time Warner Cable and Ovation said that they will spend more than $1.5 million to market the film program across their multiple media platforms, both locally and nationally.
LACMA spokeswoman Barbara Pflaumer told The Times that as a result of the new money, the weekend film program will now run at least through the end of the fiscal year in June
2010. She added that the museum will continue to seek additional donors and patrons in support of the film program.
In a statement, LACMA Director Michael Govan said the museum is "grateful to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Time Warner Cable, and Ovation TV, for expressing their tangible support for the art of film at LACMA, and we’re very pleased that we can keep film rolling while we build for the future."
Earlier this month, Govan told The Times that unsolicited donors had begun stepping forward in support of the weekend film series, but he wouldn't say how much money was under discussion. At the time, Govan said that $5 million would be enough to endow a basic film program.
The museum also announced Wednesday that it intends to create a film department within its curatorial ranks that will be charged with "thinking about the history and future of film as art as well as film's increasing importance in the larger narrative of art history."
Pflaumer declined to discuss the status of Ian Birnie, whose position as head of the museum's film department was terminated earlier this year. "His role is still in flux," she said. "It's a private matter between us and him, and we can't comment on that." Birnie, who led the program for close to 13 years, now carries the official title of part-time consulting curator for the film department.
Ovation TV said it will help LACMA produce commercials that will air on the arts channel and on other stations carried by Time Warner Cable. The commercials will be geared toward raising awareness of the film program and will be designed to direct people to LACMA's website.
"Pure money does not solve these problems," said Charles Segars, chief executive of Ovation TV. "These days you need a partnership across different media platforms to get the word out."
In the past, Ovation has joined with Time Warner to co-sponsor LACMA's Friday night jazz series as well as other cultural events around Los Angeles.
Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., said his organization decided to donate money after members read Martin Scorsese's open letter to the museum, which ran Aug. 13 in the Times, protesting the decision to cut the film series.
"After Scorsese came into the picture, that's when our membership made a motion to give the money," he said. "We try to support any program that is dedicated to preserving film as an art form."
A planned summit between Govan and members of Save Film at LACMA, a group of cinephiles that has spearheaded an online protest but that hasn't given money, is set for Sept. 1.
"For us this is a victory," Debra Levine, a founder of Save Film at LACMA, said of the $150,000 pledges. "One year is not for forever, but it gives us a reprieve to work with the museum to offer our expertise and support to make sure the program has the longevity that it merits."
-- David Ng and Susan King
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Photo: A moviegoer buys at the LACMA's box office. Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times.