When I first heard that LACMA was planning to kill their film program a few weeks ago, I was saddened but I can’t say that I was surprised. In the 7 years I’ve been running FilmRadar, I’ve witnessed the film program face numerous setbacks. The museum has curtailed the film department’s advertising budget to practically nothing and for a long time and getting the word out about their films has often been difficult. The film department appeared to me to have no support financial or otherwise from the museum. Ian Bernie, who heads the film department, has struggled for years and has done his best to keep it going. His passion and film knowledge is incredible.
What frustrates me about the whole thing is the contradictory nature of it all. LACMA director Michael Govan says that the program loses up to $100,000 a year, but I would greatly dispute this. For one thing, the entire film department at LACMA consists of only 2 people who are only paid modest salaries and several additional free interns. Secondly, I have seen numerous screenings that are sold out on a routine basis there. The film department only screens films during the time the museum is open so there are no additional operating costs to keep things going after hours. This $100K figure loss seems impossible. Govan has also stated that he wants to re-imagine the program and show films created by artists. So is this his way of saying that Erich Von Stroheim is not an artist? Is he trying to say that the films of Chang-dong Lee are not art? If he thinks the film program is losing money now, I doubt (with all due respect) that films created by Andy Warhol and Matthew Barney will be packing audiences in the theatre.
This entire incident seems to be LACMA saying that they don’t consider films as art and essentially they are not interested in highlighting them. Why is Martin Scorsese the only major filmmaker to come out and protest what is happening? Why don’t more powerful actors, directors, producers and executives get involved? I hope they do.
I have so many great memories of seeing films and speakers at LACMA over the years. I first saw the 4 1/2 hour reconstruction of Erich Von Stroheim’s GREED at LACMA, which played to a surprisingly crowded and enthusiastic audience. I saw the restoration of HEAVEN’S GATE there and got to see a post film Q&A with the legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. LACMA’s film series marked my introduction to the work of director Chang-dong Lee and his film SECRET SUNSHINE. I could keep going on and on about all of the great films and guests I’ve seen there who have not appeared at other venues around town. LACMA’s film program has been a vital part of the Los Angeles film-going scene and deserves to remain.
Check out all of the below articles about this situation and I would encourage you to sign the petition and join the Facebook page
Click on the link below to follow the saga as it unfolds.
LACMA slaps film in the face The museum’s decision to put its film program on ‘hiatus’ is an affront to the city.
By Kenneth Turan
LACMA’s cruelest cut
By Richard Schickel
The Lost Weekend?
By Richard Lacayo
Details on Michael Govan’s LACMA contract
Martin Scorsese: An open letter to Michael Govan and LACMA
LACMA Abandons Film
By Cari Beauchamp
Los Angeles County Museum of Art cancels its weekend film program
By John Horn and Susan King