Not even the coronavirus puts Baby in the corner
They take your tickets and get your popcorn, and they’re among those not getting paychecks now. To help them out, some popular movies are streaming free in online communities for three more Fridays — with a bit of star assistance.
Lionsgate is making four popular titles part of “Lionsgate Live! A Night at the Movies,” a fundraising series for the Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneers Foundation to benefit furloughed movie-theater workers. In partnership with Fandango and YouTube, the studio started the series April 17 by streaming “The Hunger Games” on YouTube with Jamie Lee Curtis hosting and providing a charming introduction (with a little help from some friends).
Damon Wolf, president of worldwide marketing at Lionsgate, said as they saw the fundraising and support efforts being conducted for first responders and the like, “We saw so many of [the people in our business] being furloughed and this was something real we could do for them. This is our business and people who need love.
“My family owned a chain of movie theaters when I was growing up. I worked there, my mother worked there. For a lot of people in L.A., it’s in their DNA.”
For the “Hunger Games” stream, viewers flooded the page’s live chat and Twitter with enthusiastic and deep-cuts fan comments (#TeamPeeta and #TeamGale continuing their eternal struggle) during the Panem-for-the-pandemic event. There were trivia questions on Twitter via the hashtag #LionsgateLive and a quarantine-spun version of the “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” movie theater song.
This Friday at 6 p.m. PT, the featured movie will be the nostalgic favorite “Dirty Dancing,” hosted again by Curtis. COVID-19 quarantine may not be the time of anybody’s life, but organizers are hoping fans will want to feel the way they felt before with star Jennifer Grey doing the introduction. In coming weeks, “La La Land” and “John Wick” (with Keanu Reeves participating) will get the spotlight. Popcornopolis and SnackNation offer custom packages viewers can order for free delivery, 10% of the proceeds going to the Pioneers Foundation.
Todd Vradenburg, executive director of the Will Rogers Pioneers Assistance Fund, told The Times there are about 150,000 theater workers across the United States. The fund targets those with five or more years of experience (because “we simply did not have enough money to service everyone,” said Vradenburg): That’s 8,000 to 10,000 who have been furloughed without pay.
“We pooled our money,” said Vradenburg. “NATO — the National Assn. of Theater Owners — gave us $1 million. We pulled $1.4 million from our reserves. We just did some simple math: If 8,000 come to us, we can afford to give each one of them $300. That’s how we got to our Phase 1 emergency fund. We’re at 7,400 now, and it looks like we’ll easily hit that 8,000 number.”
The first event, “The Hunger Games,” drew a lot of activity online but not many donations. A spokesperson for Lionsgate said the company counted around 200,000 viewers during the three-hour program. The funds raised totaled under $50,000 for the night. Certainly it’s a low-overhead effort and every dollar counts, but organizers are hoping to build on that in coming weeks.
“From concept to realization was a two-week period. Now that we know it works and works flawlessly, we were thrilled we were able to raise money ,” said Wolf. He promised future events would include even more celebrity participation. “A cornucopia of faces you recognize will tell the movie-theater workers of America how much we appreciate them and that we will see them again at the movies.”
Vradenburg said Phase 2 efforts will be more targeted fund-raising for “need-based assistance.”
Next Lionsgate Live event to benefit the Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneers Foundation: ‘Dirty Dancing’
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: YouTube (search Lionsgate LIVE) April 24 at 6 p.m. PT (‘La La Land’: May 1; ‘John Wick’: May 8)
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