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Champlin believes the bulk of responsibility for fund-raising lies not with Smith, but with the 29-member board, which has not risen to the task. "Some of the board folks who were hopefully going to rustle up a bunch of money haven't been able to do it," says Champlin. "Why that is, I'm sure I don't know." He doesn't exclude himself from blame. "I'm not the world's greatest arm-twister," he says. "In fact, I'm one of the worst." Medavoy, who helped launch the Egyptian's $12.9 million capital campaign in the spring of 1998, puts himself in that category, too. "I hate asking for money," he admits. "I'm basically someone who's like a cheerleader."
After the board launched its capital campaign, the money started flowing in. The Cinematheque had put in an initial $1.2 million, and the city helped with a $3 million grant and a $2 million HUD loan. Lloyd E. Rigler, an 82-year-old arts patron who made his fortune selling Adolph's Meat Tenderizer, gave $1.2 million to have the main theater dedicated in his name. Panavision gave $500,000 for an inscribed glass panel bordering the lobby; the William Morris Agency paid $250,000 for a row of paving stones spelling out the company's name; and MCA, Miramax and Time-Warner also contributed. Steve Tisch, producer of Forrest Gump and co-chair of the Cinematheque's capital campaign, gave $100,000 for the concession stand. Board members Medavoy and Sighvatsson sponsored paving stones, which, depending on location, cost between $5,000 and $50,000 each. An additional 1,000 donors ponied up between $40 and $1,000 a year for ticket discounts and invitations to private screenings and events.
But sometime last summer, with many major studios and other potential big givers left untapped, the donations tapered off. The Cinematheque found itself with no endowment and $2 million in restoration bills. Shortly before the opening, Smith told reporters she hoped the newly restored theater would spur donations that would help pay for a variety of unmet costs, such as restoration of a 13-ton vintage Wurlitzer and installation of the projector in the still-closed 75-seat Steven Spielberg theater just off the lobby. Instead, the opening seems to have had the opposite effect. "The outside perception was, ah, they're open," recalls Variety's Klady, who donated $1,000 to have his name inscribed on a theater seat. "There seemed no longer a great need to give it extra support."
Board member Jim Robinson, chairman of Morgan Creek Films, says the Cinematheque needs to take a more aggressive approach. "Money is not thrown around in Hollywood," he says. "Charities, or foundations, or whatever you want to call them, they've got to go out and work hard for it. Just because you stand next to a rich person doesn't mean he's going to give you money." At the same time, Robinson says he "wouldn't feel one bit bad if it takes five years" to pay off the Cinematheque's debt and raise the endowment money. "It's just a matter of how do you eat an elephant," he says. "One piece at a time."
Board co-chair Dekom is even more upbeat. He points out that the Cinematheque has paid 85 percent of its construction cost, says the theater just received a $500,000 anonymous donation and calls the remaining 15 percent in debt "statistically insignificant." Nonetheless, he says â he'd like to see it paid off by the end of the year.
Smith herself has done little to drum up funds, instead concentrating on theater operations. "We've had a million things to deal with," she says, "just making sure everything is running smoothly." But others suspect that Smith shied away from a task that leaves her more than a little uncomfortable. "There's a certain kind of Hollywood schmoozer mentality, and that's not what Barbara is, that's not her thing," says Todd McCarthy, lead film critic for Variety.
Last winter, when the magnitude of coming up with millions of dollars became clear, she hired a fund-raiser for the Egyptian project for the first time. That person apparently accomplished little and quickly departed. Smith is tightlipped about the circumstances, but one board member called the person a "flake." Smith did not hire a replacement until last month -- nearly a year later. Now she acknowledges that "this last $2 million is harder to raise" than the rest of the Egyptian funding. She even says, half jokingly, "This project will be my end."
Smith and the board are pinning their hopes on the new fund-raiser, Santa Monicabased Frances Kidd, to pull the organization through. Just how Kidd plans to accomplish this is unclear -- she did not return calls for comment. Smith says she is confident about Kidd's abilities and insists that the organization is on the verge of turning its financial picture around; she says the fund-raiser's first task will be to target donors in the $100,000-plus range. At the same time, however, Smith says that in moments of despair she has considered the possibility of halting the nightly movie programming for several months or more, so that money could be raised by renting out the space for private functions. As for closing the theater permanently, Smith says she "couldn't bear the thought. After all that has gone into this, it's unthinkable. Simply unthinkable."