Hollywood's contribution to art is indelible. Like a great painting, film demands we stop, sit, and experience the celluloid humanity unfolding before us. Film stirs emotions, viewpoints, ideas, and memories. Film might even enrich our lives more broadly and dramatically than music.
Great film teaches us about the human experience. Whether it is a sniffle, a laugh, or a sigh, the tribal communication among audience members viewing a film together in a theater heightens the experience. Imagine never seeing Kubrick's 2001, The Grapes of Wrath, or even Saturday Night Fever on a big screen. Without theatrical screenings, the director's intent for a bigger-than-life experience would be lost. In these days of CGI box office hits and humanistic flops, we all understand the need for a vibrant film program at the LACMA.
A robust film industry must take some major responsibility for its own artistic legacy. When Michael Govan announced the end of the weekend film program, people across L.A. screamed "foul." How could LACMA cancel the program that showcases America's most important films? I'm glad there is an outcry, but without donating the bucks to support the program the public complaints are nothing more than an irresponsible rant for someone else to take an active role.
Martin Scorsese's open letter to LACMA's head Michael Govan is flawed. Mr. Scorsese has never been a member of, or financially supported LACMA in anyway. Ever. Not a dime. Nada. Zip. His L.A. Times letter is an example of a bankrupting trend across California and America. Everyone wants to complain, but no one wants to pay. In LACMA's thirty plus years, the institution has received scant money from the film industry, certainly none commensurate with capacity and responsibility.
Los Angeles is entitled to a film program, but in a city where so many have prospered from the industry's fruits, the dearth of monies from Hollywood is shameful. We should be celebrating the LACMA's massive leaps forward. The Broads, the Resnicks, Wallis Annenberg, the Koticks, the Ahmansons and scores of others have been faithful to the institution, but it's always the same LA names. Where is the high-profile film community? With their endorsement, LACMA's film program could soar.
You're not entitled to a great institution; you have to make it happen. Instead of tearing down LACMA, Mr. Scorsese might have celebrated LACMA, making the case for his professional peers to pony up monies for an endowment. The museum has said five million dollars would fund the current program. Over two weeks after the announcement, no significant monies have come forward -- just bellowing, a petition, and finger pointing.
In a weekend telephone interview, Mr. Govan assured me that the LACMA film program will survive but it needs reorganization and an endowment. He expressed a rousing desire to claim film as art. Govan reiterated that L.A.'s art lovers devote millions of dollars to traditional art, but no patrons are pledged to the film program. He expressed that perhaps that's because not a single Hollywood mogul or star has stepped forward to lead the way.
New Yorkers have long claimed that L.A. is culturally anemic. Hollywood holds the key to America's biggest art form; filmmakers need to think bigger about their own legacy to American culture. A viable film program doesn't just show movies. In our conversation, Mr. Govan expressed a vision for LACMA's future that embraces film's practitioners. For the cultural significance of L.A. to soar, we need filmmakers who support fine film's important contribution to the world. Great artists appreciate great art. Mr. Scorsese should uplift the art of film with his wallet.
Los Angeles must celebrate itself in a committed way; in turn, cinema will have the power to reshape art. It's a rare time in history that artists are flush enough to support the elevation of their own work. Hollywood's creative community has the resources to build for the public. Why are they so tight when in comes to money but so conspicuous when it comes to self-aggrandizing?
Los Angeles' cultural self-confidence needs a shot in the arm. It's always difficult to give yourself the injection, but now is the time for the film community to grab their monetary syringe. Step up to the plate, Hollywood. In a town where we spend boatloads on self-promotions, the price of Hollywood championing its own legacy is equal to the budget of one small film.
Culture shapes attitudes. Philanthropy from some high profile names would acknowledge our responsibility to solve society's ills and not just complain. In his closing statement, Mr. Scorsese states, "I hope that LACMA will reverse this unfortunate decision." I hope Mr. Scorsese loosens up his purse strings long enough to put his money where his mouth is. Until then, there's always Netflix and a lamentation for a more discerning viewing public at the multiplex. Oh, the shame.
Tom Gregory and his significant other, David Bohnett, through the David Bohnett Foundation, have made a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to LACMA.