The original "Breakfast Club": Judd Nelson, left, Emilio Estevez,… (Universal Studios )
More than two years after it said it was canceling its long-running classic film series, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced the first titles in its revamped movie programming slate — but don't expect the old LACMA diet of film classics, obscure documentaries and foreign-language fare.
The new series, which LACMA announced on Tuesday with Los Angeles Film Festival organizer Film Independent, will kick off with the Oct. 13 premiere of Johnny Depp's "The Rum Diary," adapted from the Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name. While there will be some older films and imports in the mix — Charlie Chaplin's comedy "Modern Times" will be shown on Oct. 18, with a screening of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Italian drama "Accattone" on Oct. 27 — the early emphasis, judging from the first slate of films, will be on newer American productions.
Film Independent at LACMA, as the series is officially known, will include the Sundance Film Festival's dark cult drama "Martha Marcy May Marlene," starring Elizabeth Olsen, on Oct. 16, and an Oct. 20 live reading of John Hughes' script for "The Breakfast Club" directed by filmmaker Jason Reitman, who will serve as a guest artist and host other readings.
The screenings, which will be held at the museum's Bing Theater, are curated by former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell in collaboration with LACMA film coordinator Bernardo Rondeau and Film Independent's programming team. The New York Times is the series' presenting sponsor.
"I just really want it to be a real film series and not just a screening series," Mitchell said. "There are so many great places in L.A. to see movies and we have to compete with that. At the same time, I don't want to do anything to alienate that incredibly loyal audience that has kept the Bing going for so long. That would be a fool's errand. I really want that audience to feel welcome … and a younger audience — I want to get them in too."
Mitchell said "Rum Diary" director Bruce Robinson "is a pretty important part of film history for the past 30 years" and "that is one of the reasons" he was picked to open the series. In addition to writing "The Killing Fields," Robinson directed "Withnail & I" and "How to Get Ahead in Advertising."
"It was not just a commercial consideration," Mitchell said. "Again, it was sort of explaining what a film series is going to be. And really one of the things I needed to do was raise the profile of the theater a little bit and this is the way to do that."
Mitchell said he also might book movies that have played at festivals but have not received a theatrical release.
In its previous incarnation, the 41-year-old series, which LACMA said was losing money and its audience, focused largely on Hollywood classics, foreign-language imports and retrospectives of filmmakers and actors like Ernst Lubitsch and Cary Grant.
When LACMA threatened to shut down the bulk of its programming in July 2009, it sparked a backlash from cineastes and directors including Martin Scorsese. Museum director Michael Govan, who following the outcry reinstated the museum's film screenings, said LACMA had to rethink its approach to — and find underwriting for — cinematic offerings.
"There wasn't enough money for advertising, there wasn't enough money for talent and sometimes for all the films," Govan said in an interview Tuesday.
With new resources that include a digital projector for the Bing Theater, Govan said he hoped that LACMA soon would have regular film programming three nights a week, although the early emphasis will be on Thursday nights.
"They felt that would be the strongest night of all the single nights to build as your cornerstone and then we can build into Friday and Saturdays," Govan said of the advice he received from Film Independent. "I would rather see high-quality programs fill the theater, [get] people engaged and then build."
Govan said the museum's new movie projector is a tangible sign of support for LACMA's film commitment.
"We have tried for years to get equipment donated, and all of a sudden thanks to some friends and people who were interested in a new collaboration we have a Barco projector now," Govan said.
He said the next priority is a new sound system and seating for the theater, which earlier this year hosted the premiere of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life."