, Editor-in-Chief at IndieWire
It’s a been a tough summer for cinema. The economic crisis has hit film organizations and festivals hard. With corporate support for arts programs and events dwindling, administrators and planners have taken a closer look at their financial situations and, in many cases, made significant cutbacks. In the past few months, organizations such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Denver Film Society, Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, New York’s Rooftop Films and others have faced economic hardships that have played out in public.
LACMA slashed its forty year old repertory and foreign film program in June but last week agreed to reinstate it through next year after cinema activists and moviegoers mobilized online. They changed course after a couple of corporations stepped with cash donations to temporarily save the program.
“It’s not that people don’t love film here, but it’s hard,” LACMA museum director Michael Govan told the LA Times recently, “We are getting diminishing audiences. This is a good time since we are shrinking to spend time thinking and rethinking. We do have to stem our losses.”
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Here at Rooftop, we have indeed been hit hard by losses in government funding, foundation support, and corporate sponsorship. But the good news is that unlike most other film organizations, our attendance is better than ever–up 20% from 2008 to 2009. By the end of our annual Summer Series, almost 25,000 people will have come to Rooftop Films this year. Despite heavy financial losses in the winter and spring, Rooftop Films presented our festival as planned, with no cuts to public programming.
Sadly, ticket sales covers only 1/4 of the expenses that go into presenting the Summer Series, and while we’re clearly still a popular and growing organization that is creatively finding ways to get people to see movies, if we don’t raise additional funding soon, we will be in serious trouble. Individuals who care about Rooftop Films should please make a tax-deductible donation. Foundations that want people cinema to reach wide audiences should support our populist work. And corporations who see the value in one of the few arts organizations with steadily increasing audiences should get behind Rooftop.