LACMA’s Govan says donors step forward for film program


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In the wake of the chorus of disapproval that greeted last week’s announcement that he was red-lighting the 40-year-old weekend film series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, museum Director Michael Govan has some good news: Potential donors have stepped up, interested in helping underwrite the series.

‘If people didn’t complain, we’d be in real trouble -- it would mean people don’t value film at the museum,’ Govan said today from New York, where he’s vacationing. ‘The stir ... has already resulted in calls from people who can lend a hand.’


The weekend shows are scheduled to be suspended in October, leaving only Tuesday matinee screenings and occasional films tied to art exhibitions. LACMA has downgraded its longtime film department head to a part-time consultant.

Govan said he has meetings lined up next week to talk with prospective donors who came forward unsolicited, but he wouldn’t say who or how much money may be on the table.

Last week, Govan said about $5 million would endow a basic film program; today he upped the ante. ‘I’d love to see $10 million.’ As a rule of thumb, nonprofits aim to spend about 5% of an endowment annually, so a $10-million endowment would yield about $500,000 a year to run a film department.

LACMA officials have said that the film program has lost about $1 million over the last 10 years. Museum President Melody Kanschat said that whether to sustain it has been an issue in LACMA’s budget discussions for at least seven years. Govan said that when he was hired in April 2006, he resolved to ‘give it three years, hoping it would take root with all the energy’ surrounding the museum’s ongoing expansion and renovation -- including the 2008 opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and next year’s scheduled opening of another structure by architect Renzo Piano, the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion.

With audiences and revenues still declining, Govan said, the alternatives for the film program were: ‘Let it fade away with smaller and smaller budgets every year’ or halt it until funding could be found to make it succeed. ‘We can do this,’ he said. ‘Film can be a shining star.’

-- Mike Boehm

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