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LACMA Update

LACMA Update

As the dust settles around the film program controversy at the Los Angeles County Museum, it’s starting to look like director Michael Govan was as clever as a fox. Clearly, he wasn’t happy with the way the film program was going. Announcing that he was shutting it down was a way to alert the media, improve attendance this summer, designate the film program as a curatorial department, and raise some badly needed funds to expand the programming. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Warner Warner Cable and Ovation TV saved the program through 2010 with $150,000 in pledges. The NYT reports.

But it is unclear if film program head Ian Birnie will stay on. He’d like to. He is back in his office programming the extended program six weeks beyond October 17, he writes in an email: “Titles are still being confirmed so I can’t comment in detail at this moment. But I believe I have scheduled some wonderful films through the end of November and am looking forward to planning programs into spring 2010, and beyond. Due to our vastly increased funding and attendance numbers, and the overwhelming public response, there is good reason to hope for a bright future for the Film Department at LACMA.”

But Birnie admits that he has not yet been reprieved. For the moment, he has a shot to show his best stuff. Govan could seek his replacement, presumably someone more closely alligned with his taste who will bring new energy to the program. But will Govan continue to support classic cinema? That is the question.

[Photo of Michael Govan courtesy LA Times]

The Save LACMA FIlm group is still scheduled to meet with Govan on Tuesday, September 1 to address their concerns about programming and the future of Birnie, said co-founder Doug Cummings, editor of Filmjourney.org. “But we still have unanswered questions, such as how many film screenings will occur, and whether or not repertory and foreign film classics will be the focus.”

The group announced that other participants in the meeting include:

“Brent Simon, president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; Margot Gerber, director of publicity and promotions at the American Cinematheque; Shannon Kelley, head of programming for the UCLA Film & Television Archive; three-time Oscar winning costume designer James Acheson; film critic Lael Loewenstein; repertory film executive Jared Sapolin; Michael Schlesinger, a veteran executive of classic film distribution; and Kyle Westphaul, the programming chair emeritus for the film society Doc Films.”

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