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Save Film at LACMA, Michael Govan plan to meet

Though no date has been set for the meeting, the group hopes to persuade the museum director to restore its weekend film series, set for cancellation in October.

August 12, 2009|Susan King

First, President Obama held the "beer summit" with Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and police Sgt. James Crowley. Now the founders of Save Film at LACMA are planning a "popcorn summit" with Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, who recently made the controversial decision to cancel the institution's 40-year-old weekend film series.

Journalist and marketing consultant Debra Levine (who has done freelance writing for The Times) and corporate publicist Kathleen Dunleavy -- both dedicated film aficionados -- are spearheading Save Film at LACMA. They said the advocacy group held a meeting on Saturday with various movie buffs and scholars to discuss ways to persuade Govan to restore the film program, which has screened both classic and contemporary fare from Hollywood and international filmmakers.

On Monday, they e-mailed Govan a letter requesting a meeting. Govan agreed to sit down with members of the group, although a date and time have not been set, according to a museum spokesperson.

In their letter to Govan, they stated their objectives: "how critical the LACMA film program is for our community; help find ways to reinstate and enhance the museum's commitment to film; and present you with our petition."

LACMA officials have said that the film program has lost about $1 million over the last decade and that attendance at screenings has been declining.

Online reaction to LACMA's decision to dismantle the film program and relegate its longtime film department head Ian Birnie to part-time consultant has been met with outrage and spirited discussion online. About 1,450 people have signed the petition to reinstate the film program at www.the petitionsite.com, including filmmakers such as John Landis, Paul Schrader and Alexander Payne.

Their Facebook group, "Save Film at LACMA," currently has 2,210 members. And Save Film at LACMA released a music video Monday on YouTube based on Bob Dylan's classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

The museum has also launched its own electronic forum for discussion.

Several critics have also voiced their displeasure and concern over the closing of the film department, including The Times' Kenneth Turan as well as Richard Schickel.

In an interview with The Times last week, Govan said that "donors have begun to step forward" to underwrite the film program, but declined to mention specific names or dollar amounts. According to a museum spokesperson, as of Tuesday, no money had been donated. Govan had said that he was planning to meet with potential donors this week.

Currently, the museum plans to shut down the weekend film program after its Alain Resnais retrospective scheduled for Oct. 2-17, leaving only its Tuesday matinees and special screenings tied to art exhibitions.

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susan.king@latimes.com

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