“Meet the Programmers” at Film Forum
On Sunday, March 27 Film Forum presented a members only event called “Meet the Programmers.” The program featured Film Forum Director Karen Cooper, Director of Repertory Programming Bruce Goldstein and programmer Mike Maggiore. The programmers’ presentations, and especially the back and forth between the programmers and the audience, was a fun, enthusiastic, informative, “cineaste’s only” exchange that ran the gamut from the 3D version of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” to the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, to the current day realities of independent and repertory film exhibition.
Cooper began the program by explaining that Film Forum, “has more than 4,000 members and that, together, they contribute over a half a million dollars a year. That’s a big amount of money for an organization that has a four and a half-million-dollar budget, so we are deeply grateful and really indebted to our members for helping to keep Film Forum going these 40 plus years.”
Cooper recalled first being introduced to Film Forum, which at the time was, “A tiny 50 seat folding chair enterprise on the Upper West Side.” She recalled being given the opportunity, in the fall of 1972, to take over the business. Cooper explained, to much laughter, that the “business” consisted of a soft cheap suitcase that contained mimeographed copies of letters the owner had sent to filmmakers either accepting or rejecting their films. Cooper explained that she internationalized the programming by traveling to film festivals and bringing in films from all over the world. “My personal impulse was that movies are an international language and that was important for me.”
Cooper reflected on the current state of independent movie theatres explaining, “We all know that independent theatres have closed in New York. The reason we continue is because of our non-profit status.”
In regard to the nearby IFC Center, which shows the same sort of films as Film Forum, Cooper explained that the name, Independent Film Center, is misleading. “They’re owned by Cable Vision, which is a billion dollar corporation. Independent of what? Debt?” She continued, “They’re a vertically integrated monopoly…They exhibit, they produce they broadcast…They are in a position, very often, to offer all those benefits to a filmmaker or a sales agent and that precludes us from showing the work.”
In contrast Goldstein explained that, in terms of repertory programming, Film Forum has nurtured relationships over many years that give the theatre access to very good prints of older movies. He talked about, “having access to all the studio archive copies, museum copies.” He explained that some of these prints can cost as much as $15,000.00. “They just don’t lend them out to anybody,” he said.
Film Forum is located at 209 West Houston Street in Manhattan.