The Motion Picture & Television Fund is mounting an ambitious fundraising campaign to raise $300 million, plans for which were revealed Thursday morning during a virtual event that featured its most prominent supporters including George Clooney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos, Jodie Foster, Yvette Nicole Brown and Tony Goldwyn.
News of the campaign comes four days after the MPTF made history as the first organization to win an Oscar when Bryan Cranston presented a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher, an honor that coincides with its 100th anniversary and is named for its onetime president. The milestone was mentioned throughout the 60-minute event that also included talk of a memorabilia auction and an upcoming two-night gala produced by Bob Greenblatt and Jennifer Todd, created as a way to honor MPTF and Hollywood history.
Beitcher kicked off the festivities, signing on virtually from the Susan and Gary Martin screening room inside the Louis B. Mayer Memorial Theater on MPTF’s Woodland Hills campus. “We say in our mission statement that we help people live and age well with dignity and purpose,” he explained of the safety net offered by MPTF and its social services for entertainment industry professionals. “That’s been true now for 100 years but never more true than in the last 12 months.”
Beitcher then acknowledged the devastating COVID-19 pandemic that claimed the lives of six residents and left thousands of workers in need of services provided by MPTF. “Mary Pickford said, ‘We see a need and we fill it,'” quoted Beitcher. “She was never more right than in 2020. We continue to experience higher levels of inbound calls.”
Katzenberg, an indefatigable champion of MPTF who serves on the board of directors and governors, then fielded the call to join the Zoom event. “Today we celebrate 100 years of great history at the MPTF. I think it is an opportunity for us to look to the future. The success of the MPTF for the next generation is something that all of us on the board of directors and the board of governors are deeply focused and concerned and excited for. Our job is to make sure we pass the baton of the MPTF to the next generation in even better shape than we received it from our predecessors.”
He called the fundraising drive “essential” and said $200 million will be funneled toward the endowment that will allow “us to ensure that we are well-financed and continue to offer all the great social services” for many years to come. The other $100 million, he noted, will be invested in the physical space. He then passed the baton to Beitcher who offered some details about how they plan to use the funds to transform the campus, including continued work on the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion, expansion of living units, a wellness studio, townhouses with full kitchens and laundry appliances, a garden space, a creative center and a children’s recreation center, among other features.
Katzenberg returned with a pledge to push for 100 percent participation to achieve the $300 million goal: “What we are looking for, hoping for, wishing for is that every member of the movie and television community over this next year participates. Whether you give 100 pennies, 100 nickels, 100 dimes, $100, $100,000, maybe, please $100 million from somebody out there. One hundred percent for our 100th anniversary is how we are going to get there.”
Paramount chief Gianopulos, who serves on the board of directors, delivered the details on the two-night event that will highlight the best of the past while looking to the future and include special performances and appearances. He noted that they are still nailing down the date and venue but that they are eyeing for the fourth quarter of this year: “We could all use an occasion to dress up and celebrate.” Another initiative: A historic “Auction of the Century” that will feature iconic items from Hollywood history.
Foster appeared briefly, in a recorded message, to add, “This 100-year-old mission means that 100 years old is the new sweet 60.” Nicole Brown, a member of MPTF’s Next Gen board (and “the sunshine of all of this,” per Katzenberg), urged industry professionals to join the cause by donating in whatever way they can, either financially or through volunteering their time. “What I love about this mission is that nobody is telling you how much to give, when or where to give.… There are 1,000 ways to give back,” she said. “We have all lived through the ups and downs of this industry. When you’re up, you put a little bit for the person that’s down, and hopefully, if you have your [down] moment, somebody will put a little bit in for you.”
She continued: “Remember that our time here is limited and this organization is going to go on and on and on. It’s infinite, it keeps going on. Let’s all play our part and keep it going.”
Katzenberg then introduced Clooney, who said he was appearing from London where he has been directing his next feature film, The Tender Bar, starring Ben Affleck. He joked that for the milestone auction, he was going to talk to Warner Bros. to see if he could get the suit he wore for his turn as Batman, “because, you know, that was really considered one of the great moments in cinema history.”
On a more serious note, he said he looks at giving back on behalf of the MPTF as a true responsibility. “I look at it as we have this obligation to the people whose shoulders we actually stand on,” he said. Speaking of, Goldwyn appeared and made mention of his family’s legacy in Hollywood, offering up how proud he is to be part of the third generation of Goldwyns to have made a living in the entertainment industry.
“My grandfather, Sam Goldwyn, helped start the Motion Picture Relief Fund when the industry itself was just in its infancy. And the idea of this unpredictable and often fickle business taking care of its own became a driving passion for my grandpa and my grandmother for their entire lives,” he said, adding how service and giving back trickled down the family tree. “I really look at celebrating this 100th anniversary as a reaffirmation of our moral obligation to take care of our own.”