Throughout its five years in existence, Cinefamily has stressed the "family" aspect of its mission: Rather than rely on a single benefactor (like their neighbor, the Quentin Tarantino–owned New Beverly), it asks its audience to collectively chip in to keep the theater alive.
The nonprofit cinema housed in the vintage (read: old) Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax hosted its first fundraiser last December, a 24-hour marathon of live events, including appearances by guests as varied as Elliott Gould, Jonathan Gold and Michael Cera. The fundraiser was a hit in terms of turnout and press, but Cinefamily is perpetually in need of a financial boost.
In the two years since the theater hosted its first one-week run of a new film (the Oscar-nominated Dogtooth), Cinefamily has become a key venue for local limited engagements of special current releases, including many foreign films, indies and documentaries that may not find a home elsewhere in the city.
But almost all new films are distributed not on film prints but in digital formats (as, increasingly, are classic and restored films), and in order to stay competitive with other venues, Cinefamily needs to spend $60,000 to upgrade its digital-projection capabilities.
The goal of the Second Annual Fantastic, Elastic 24-Hour Holiday Telethon, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, is to raise at least $144,000 for all manner of improvements, including a new DCP projector, as well as sound upgrades, fixes to the theater's chronically leaky roof and a new sign. If donations exceed that amount, the top priority will be to replace the theater's ancient, rock-hard fleet of seats.
For the marathon telethon, Cinefamily's programmers have curated an eclectic batch of guests to draw attention to the cause. Robert Downey Jr. will kick off the festivities by opening a time capsule left for him at the theater. "It's a bit of a mystery," says Cinefamily executive director Hadrian Belove. "We found it under the projection booth."
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As of press time, other guests expected include Jason Schwartzman, John Hawkes, Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, German actor Udo Kier and, via Skype, screenwriting guru Robert McKee and Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh. Some of the events-within-the-event planned: a talent show featuring Nick Offerman and friends, a tribute to Free to Be You and Me for its 40th anniversary, and much more.
If you can't make it to the theater this weekend, you can watch it streaming online at cinefamily.org/telethon2012, or support the fund drive via Kickstarter — search the site for "Cinefamily" — through Jan. 2.
When the New Beverly Cinema was threatened with eviction in 2010, Tarantino famously stepped in and bought the building and the business, making the vow, "As long as I'm alive, and as long as I'm rich, the New Beverly will be there, showing double features in 35 mm."
But in a recent interview (mostly) about his new film, Django Unchained, the patron (saint) of Los Angeles cinephilia admitted an affinity for the friendly competition. "I don't really have anything to do with the Cinefamily guys, other than support them, and I lend them prints from my collection," Tarantino said, noting that, aesthetically speaking, "where the Cinefamily guys are, that's a little bit more like if I was just programming a place — it would be that kind of Mondo Video kind of thing."