The Los Angeles Times reported last night that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be pulling the plug on its renowned weekend film program, which has been running for four decades. The program, which has screened retrospectives on everyone from Cary Grant to Roman Polanski to Ernst Lubitsch, as well as collections of foreign and arthouse films, has lost apparently lost $1 million over the past 10 years.
The museum said that “it was not abandoning its commitment to films and filmmakers” but instead “wanted to rethink its approach to the art form, and would look for potential donors to underwrite an unspecified future film program that is curated like any other part of the museum’s exhibits.”
“It’s not that people don’t love film here, but it’s hard,” Michael Govan, the museum’s director, told the LA Times. “We are getting diminishing audiences. This is a good time since we are shrinking to spend time thinking and rethinking. We do have to stem our losses.”
Anne Thompson reacted to the news on her blog by noting that “LACMA said the program lost $1 million over the last ten years and had failed to build an audience. Sorry, I thought the room was usually packed when I attended. I loved the programming, but it was arcane and eclectic, as a museum’s should be, not designed to ‘build an audience.'”
LA Weekly‘s Tom Christie sat down with both Govan and Ian Birnie – LACMA’s film department head of the last 13 years, now demoted from full-time employee to a part-time consultant – for an extensive interview. “We really need to raise the bar,” Govan told him. “Film is a fundamental art and it should be a core curatorial program, equal to all other programs. This museum has a lot of competing needs and it’s hard to get everyone’s attention, especially when it’s business as usual. It’s not business as usual. Let’s be clear: We are going to have a reset.”
Govan suggested to the LA Times that there could be some new film programming next spring, and during the interim LACMA’s film offerings would be limited to “special programs related to exhibitions.” The last weekend screening, “The Classic Films of Alain Resnais,” will be held Oct. 2 to 17.