Times Festival of Books will move to USC

Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will move its weekend-long celebration of the written word to the USC campus next spring after 15 years across town at UCLA, officials announced Wednesday.

The change of venue to USC’s main University Park campus south of downtown Los Angeles will offer a more central location, better access to public transportation, easier parking and the use of newly expanded university facilities for the annual event, leaders of the newspaper and USC said.

The decision came after negotiations between The Times and UCLA foundered over differences about how to reduce and share expenses, as well as some logistical issues, according to several people with knowledge of the talks. A UCLA spokesman said state budget cuts to the UC system also have made it more difficult in recent years for the campus to bear its share of festival costs.

The 16th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is scheduled for April 30 and May 1, 2011. It will feature the traditional array of lectures by authors, book signings, musical performances and sales booths that have made it a major event in the city’s cultural life and the nation’s largest public literary festival. Last year, an estimated 140,000 people attended the event at UCLA’s campus in Westwood.

“After 15 years on the Westside, we are very excited to move the Festival of Books to its beautiful new home and have the opportunity to work hand in hand with USC to ensure we grow bigger and better in the future,” Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein said in a statement. “Attendees and exhibitors can expect more to see, do and experience in addition to great access and a refreshing change of scenery.”

USC President C.L. Max Nikias said he was delighted to provide the festival a new home.

“The festival is a great fit for our world-class faculty authors and writing programs, as well as for our literacy work in the community,” Nikias said. “USC and the Los Angeles Times are two of the oldest institutions in Los Angeles, and it’s fitting that we would be joining together for this event that is so important to the intellectual life of Southern California.”

The new agreement is for three years with an expectation for long-term renewals after that. Financial arrangements between the newspaper and USC were not disclosed.

UCLA’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications Lawrence Lokman said his campus had hoped to continue negotiating with The Times to find a way to keep the festival there. “We are disappointed by this news but not surprised,” Lokman said. He said that many festival-goers “surely will miss attending the event on the Westwood campus and we will miss having them here.”

Lokman said the negotiations reflected financial pressures on both sides. He said the university took in more than $300,000 in revenues from festival parking and food sales last spring, defraying such costs as custodians’ pay and electricity, but still had $176,000 in remaining expenses. Such an outlay would have been difficult for the university to continue, he said.

Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan declined to discuss the disagreements with UCLA or give an estimate on the festival’s overall costs. “The Times has shared a long, successful history with UCLA and we intend to continue to collaborate with them on other events and projects far into the future,” she said.

UCLA is a larger campus, but USC spokesman James Grant said his university had plenty of room for the festival’s many outdoor activities and indoor seminars and lectures. He said he expected the festival to be anchored at the campus lawns and plazas near Doheny Memorial Library and Leavey Library.