Farewell, free movies
The new Central Library opened its doors on September 30, 2013, with what appeared to be a commitment to the Film Forum screening series.
The morning email brought dire tidings for one of our town’s longest-running film programs. Series devotee Pat Pepper writes, “For 31 years the San Diego Public Library has shown quality movies free of charge via Film Forum. This valuable program is set to end in November. It would be very excellent if Scott Marks tries to save Film Forum as he did the Ken Cinema.”
I’m good, but it’s doubtful the power needed to hack through this amount of bureaucratic red tape is harnessed in my veal-like limbs. Pat received the news directly from program curator, Ralph DeLauro — the man keeping the show afloat for over three decades — during his introduction to Tuesday night’s presentation of the French comedy, If You Don’t, I Will.
The program ends with November’s series. The decision impacts all of the branch libraries where Ralph took his show on the road.
Ever spend three hours being dodged by librarians? That’s how long it took to get a call back after filling inboxes with voicemails. A brief chat with library Sr. Public Information Officer Marion Moss Hubbard was followed up by this list of “speaking points” from library director Misty Jones:
The San Diego Public Library has had a long term relationship with Ralph DeLauro and we appreciate what he has done on the Film Forum through the years. Films at the Library will not be going away. We have received requests from the community to branch out. We are exploring new opportunities to reach more people and be more inclusive as well as ways to stretch out programming dollars. This exploration will include rotating among film experts in the community and developing new community partnerships.
“Stretch out programming dollars” no doubt means a reliance on staff members to keep it going rather than paying an expert in his or her field to continue running the show. Ralph’s future with the library is unclear. When asked, Ms. Hubbard paused before saying, “I’m not sure.”
As a valuable asset to the local film community, it’s a shame to see Ralph’s program fold. I’m a fine one to talk, having never once in almost two years visited the facility, but damn if the venue doesn’t serve a purpose. I go to bed every night thankful for the opportunity to get into movies for free. The old days of second-run two-dollar houses are deader than Clint Eastwood’s chances of luring Doris Day out of retirement. A lot of movie fans don’t have the extra entertainment dollars needed to drop on a $12 ticket. For many, this was their one shot to see quality films in a theatre and with an audience.
For those wanting to start a write-in campaign, this list of administrative contacts is as good a place as any to get the ball rolling.
There will be a screening of the terrific music documentary The Wrecking Crew on November 2 with director Denny Tedesco in attendance. Come as a show of support, and stay for what will no doubt be one of Ralph’s crowning achievements.