Tuesday, July 28, 2009

LACMA Closes Film Department

Susan King of the L.A. Times (click title link above) and Cari Beauchamp at Native Intelligence report that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is shuttering its film department and cancelling its weekend film series.

As mentioned here recently, the series currently playing at the Museum features James Mason.

When I was a teen in the '70s and early '80s the Museum was one of the places in Southern California to see classic movies, and our family saw dozens there. The evenings were usually hosted by the wonderful curator, Ron Haver, who sadly passed away in 1993.

My dad recently reminded me of one of our more unique experiences at the museum, when a movie arrived for a screening missing a reel -- but it was announced someone in the audience had a copy of the movie at home and saved the day by retrieving it and furnishing the missing reel!

The "Golden Age" of revival theaters in Southern California for the most part preceded videotape, cable TV, and DVDs, tapering off in the late '80s. The Museum has kept going for the last couple decades, but the director apparently feels he can no longer compete for audiences with DVDs. That might be understandable on one level, but an art museum has a greater mission, to preserve art and make it available to the public. The museum is not simply cancelling screenings, but apparently it's also discontinuing the preservation of film as an art form; the film department is closing and the curator is being moved to "consultant" status.

Cari Beauchamp mourns in her column that "The message from on high is loud and clear: Films are not considered 'art' at LACMA."

Thursday Update: L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan weighs in with a well-considered commentary.

Saturday Update: Thoughts from Richard Schickel.


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