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Future Of Filmex Is On Hold

February 12, 1986|JACK MATHEWS | Times Staff Writer

Filmex is down to one.

Call it, you'll think it's down to none. No one was answering phones at the offices of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition this week because the only employee left, artistic director Ken Wlaschin, is in Berlin watching movies.

The rest of the staff, including executive director Suzanne McCormick, has been let go in the wake of the decision by the Filmex board of directors to merge with the planned American Cinematheque.

It was learned this week that McCormick, a heavily recruited former director of the Chicago Film Festival, and Wlaschin, a former programmer with the London and Chicago festivals, were preparing for a scaled-down Filmex to begin March 14, but it was scrubbed by the board at the urging of Jerry Weintraub, the board chairman.

Press screenings for the 70 to 80 films being invited for this year's festival, including most of the official foreign-language entries submitted for Academy Award consideration, were to have begun this week.

No official announcement has been made, but the Filmex board is tentatively planning to hold the festival this fall. If it does, it will likely be without a sanctioned date on the international calendar of film festivals and in competition with established festivals in New York, Toronto, Montreal and Chicago.

Doubt was cast by some Filmex veterans that the merger with American Cinematheque will ever take place. They say the merger agreement requires first retiring the Filmex debt.

With no festival to generate income, where will that money--said to be $352,000--come from?

When Weintraub, a film producer and talent manager with a track record as one of Hollywood's top fund-raisers, took over as Filmex board chairman last summer, he told The Times that he didn't expect to have much trouble raising the money.

Weintraub also had announced plans to pack the Filmex board with industry leaders who would get things done, and that starting in 1986, the festival would become a more festive, more mainstream event.

Since then, Weintraub got busy with his appointment as chief executive of United Artists Inc., a studio that like the American Cinematheque, isn't really in business yet.

UA is supposed to be spun from MGM/UA when Ted Turner's buyout is completed.

Weintraub told the Filmex board in January that he couldn't devote much time to it and that he was in favor of a merger with either the American Film Institute or American Cinematheque.

Apparently, the American Cinematheque won out because it was willing to share a percentage of the funds it raises from such events as its Feb. 28 Moving Picture Ball.

There is lingering hard feeling and much skepticism among oldtime Filmex supporters about Weintraub's short tenure, the festival postponement, staff firings and the continuing debt.

"As near as I can tell, he hasn't done anything," says Patti Crawford, who has recruited and led Filmex volunteers since the festival began in 1972, and had been ready to do it again next month.

"He just gave us away."

Attempts to reach Weintraub were unsuccessful.

CIMARRON SNUB: The film industry--and film reporters--are still buzzing over the omission of Steven Spielberg's name from the slate of best director nominees for 1985 Academy Awards.

The directors branch of the motion picture academy is taking a lot of heat for its voting (a writer in one of the industry trade papers has actually called for an investigation and suggested suspending the final Oscar voting until it's completed), but it is not without precedent.

Bob Werden, who handled statistics and publicity for the Oscars, said the paradox--in best picture nomination but none for its director--has occurred 146 times since the awards were launched in 1927.

And a reader points out that the Spielberg Snub doesn't begin to out-outrage the Ruggles Snub of 1931.

That year, "Cimarron" was nominated in all but one of the categories that have contemporary parallels, and ended up winning three of the awards, including that of best picture.

But Wesley Ruggles, its director, was not among those nominated.

BOX-OFFICE REPORT: "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" appears to be on a winning streak. Ticket sales climbed 7% its second weekend, bringing total grosses to $13.8 million. Boosted by critical laurels, Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" took in $1.2 million at only 54 theaters. "F/X," the week's only other newcomer, grossed a not-so-spiffy $3.2 million at more than 900 screens.

Doubtless bolstered by its 11 Oscar nominations--and the non-nomination of director Steven Spielberg--"The Color Purple" showed a 25% boost in ticket sales over last week, bringing in an additional $5.3 million for a grand box-office total of $45.8 million. "Out of Africa"--also with 11 nominations--bagged $3.5 million (up 8%), for total grosses of $55.2 million.

"Brazil" went "wide" over the weekend, going from 15 to 145 screens, which brought in $500,000 and pushed its total box-office take to $1.9 million. On the blah side were second weekends for "Youngblood" (grosses are now $8.1 million), "The Best of Times" ($4.5 million) and "Power" ($3.1 million).

Pat Broeske contributed to this article.

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