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Film Comment magazine on ‘indefinite hiatus’ as layoffs hit Film at Lincoln Center

57th New York Film Festival - "The Irishman"
Robert De Niro, left, and Martin Scorsese attend the 57th New York Film Festival for the world premiere of “The Irishman” at Lincoln Center in September 2019.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Film at Lincoln Center)

In another ominous sign for arts organizations around the country, Film at Lincoln Center announced massive internal upheaval on Friday. A longtime hub of film culture in New York City with an influential reach around the country, the organization furloughed or laid off approximately 50% of the full-time staff as well as all of the part-time staff.

The organization’s magazine Film Comment, long a leading independent film publication, was placed on “indefinite hiatus.” The coming May/June issue will be the final one for the foreseeable future and will publish digitally rather than in print. (Full disclosure: This reporter worked at Film Comment from 1997-2001.)

Film at Lincoln Center produces the New York Film Festival, runs the Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, featuring repertory and first-run art-house movies, and in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art puts on the New Directors/New Films series.

Film at Lincoln Center suspended theater operations on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 25th edition of the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema program was cut short, New Directors/New Films was postponed and the annual Chaplin Award Gala, which was to honor Spike Lee and is a vital fundraiser for the organization, was pushed to the fall.

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From the latest James Bond to “The Batman,” many high-profile films are rescheduling their release dates to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 in movie theaters and other large gatherings. Here’s a working list of all the film releases affected by coronavirus.

Having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, Film at Lincoln Center has been a vital launching pad for many filmmakers. Through the New York Film Festival in particular, international directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wong Kar Wai and Claire Denis all made early inroads with American audiences. The 2019 edition of the New York Film Festival opened with the world premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and also featured movies such as “Marriage Story,” “First Cow,” “Pain and Glory,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and future Oscar best picture winner “Parasite.”

In a statement, Leslie Klainberg, executive director of Film at Lincoln Center, said, “At Film at Lincoln Center, our small, passionate team of employees are the lifeblood of what we do, and these decisions were not made easily. It is imperative, however, that we take decisive action to ensure that once we are on the other side of this unprecedented moment in global history that we will be able to start rebuilding and resume our mission to support the art and elevating the craft of cinema.”


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