As happens often in this town (and, I’m sure, across the nation), public or private institutions find themselves in financial distress, and whether it’s a question of immediate shortcoming and need, or the actual danger of closure, there is a sudden and desperate need for cash.
At moments like this, when schools are unable to get new textbooks, or infrastructure is in dire need of repair, or State Parks are closing, I admit to a natural inclination to mentally seek out the deep pockets of our local moguls and billionaires to fix the problem.
Well, Eli Broad could write a check here, I muse, or Ron Burkle, or Stephen Bing, maybe Spielberg or Geffen, or any one of the quieter hundreds of mega-wealthy individuals living in Los Angeles who should care about the city and whose philanthropy would benefit so many by a timely gesture.
It rarely happens; mostly crises increase in magnitude, programs are dropped, infrastructure crumbles, institutions close.
One such recent disaster might seem at first blush to be less than earth-shattering in importance, but for an accurate perspective on what the shut-down of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s film program really means for our city, I refer you to Kenneth Turan’s trenchant commentary last month in the Times’ "Calendar" section on LACMA’s decision to put its Cinematheque-quality program “on hiatus.”
While one can quibble with the loss figures LACMA is putting out — and Turan does in fact set that record straight, not a million dollars a year, but a million dollars over 10 years — the fact is that once again Los Angeles faces a financial crisis regarding an important civic institution.
While my thoughts again at first drifted knee-jerk to the financial saviors, I believe I have a better solution this time.
All of us who are members of the greater entertainment community here in Los Angeles should consider LACMA’s program as one of the crown jewels of our cultural patrimony. Saving it, preserving it and ensuring its longevity should be a no-brainer, an obligation. In addition, we should welcome the participation of those who, though not in “the Business,” are inveterate film lovers and buffs who care deeply about the Bing Theater programs and patronize them regularly.
This effort is not beyond our reach.
If 100,000 people gave $10 each — the price of a couple of those wild coffees at Starbucks, the program is ensured for 10 years. That kind of Obama-esque, grassroots effort may be beyond organizing, but if all of us in the combined membership of SAG, AFTRA, the WGA, DGA, and PAG, plus all the film lovers, dug into our pockets and ponied up (unless of course it’s the difference between paying the light bill or baby food) let’s say, a percentage of/or one pension check, or residual check, a percentage of an episode payment, a rewrite check a guest appearance, think what could be achieved.
And I am not forgetting the superstars. If on top of this mass effort, 50 people gave $100,000 each (or more if the spirit moves), a fund could be created that would essentially endow this program until the Earth falls in the Sun.
Just throwing out a few names (forgive the omissions), but if Eisner, Diller, Spielberg, Geffen, Katzenberg, Bruckheimer, the Scotts, Cruise, Rudin, Saban, Milchan, Turner, Murdoch, Redstone, Anschutz, Perenchio, Bing, Lear, Howard, Grazier, Ovitz, Wolf, Bellisario, Jackson, Bey, Mann, Hanks, Pitt, Streep, Roberts, Emanuel, Wiatt, Strickler, Berg, Lonner, Hanks, Sandler, Apatow, Douglas, Ramis, Lucas, Eastwood, Zallian, Ephron, the Coen brothers, and all the honchos and executives at the studios and the production companies, at the agencies and the big entertainment law firms (you get the idea) sat up and wrote a check — in doing so acknowledging the historical and world-wide scope of the industry that has given them such success — we could bury this crisis and write its epitaph in glory.
Great sums have been donated by many to alma maters and medical centers. Buildings, research centers and programs have been named after prominent benefactors — many of whom come from our industry.
There are petitions going around to get LACMA to change its mind, and petitions can be a good thing. But this, as the Cosa Nostra likes to say is “our thing,” and we should simply make the museum “an offer [it] can’t refuse.” It would be a source of pride for generations where we could go and know that this is something we fixed, we sustained, because it matters every bit as much as Ken Turan says it does and more.