Philanthropy: The studios
EmptyHere is a sampling of philanthropic activity on the part of Hollywood studios.
Walt Disney Company
Last year, Disney donated more than $170 million in cash, time and in-kind support to organizations helping children and families around the world. The company is the top wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, granting 5,000 requests every year to kids with life-threatening illnesses. Under the Disney VoluntEARS program, employees gave 485,000 hours of service to a variety of causes last year. Disney also supports Toys for Tots with donations of playthings and introduces kids to books with contributions to First Book. Other nonprofits on Disney's list include the American Red Cross, Red Crescent and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
One of Lionsgate's favorite causes is the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. In April, the studio began auctioning off film posters signed by cast members and filmmakers on missionfish.org, eBay's charity auction Web site, with all proceeds being donated to the foundation. The production department also donates auction items such as internships and walk-ons to several organizations including United Friends of the Children, which helps foster youth transition into adulthood; Jewish Child & Family Services; Much Love Animal Rescue; the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation; and Women at Risk. In addition, the studio organizes private screenings and pizza parties for terminally ill children and their families.
Viacom's film industry peeps might be spread across Los Angeles, but for the past 12 years, hundreds of them -- from Paramount and DreamWorks to MTV and Nickelodeon -- have marched as one on Viacommunity Day. Even Brad Grey was among the studio's 340 employees who got out of the office and into the community for the 12th annual volunteer-a-thon on May 23. Studio folk gardened, painted and packed groceries for the Frances Blend and Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter schools as well as an array of nonprofits including AIDS Project Los Angeles, Covenant House and Pet Orphans of Southern California. Volunteers who couldn't make it off the lot helped fill 600 gift bags for Iraq vets. At day's end, everyone gathered at a studio wrap party to compare notes. Paramount Pictures and Paramount Vantage also donate portions of their ticket sales to charitable organizations. About $2.5 million from 2006's "World Trade Center" boxoffice went to nonprofits building memorials and helping families affected by 9/11. The $1.1 million raised by "An Inconvenient Truth" went to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
Six years ago, Beth Berke and Janice Pober of Sony's division of corporate social responsibility began plotting out ways the company could expand its charitable efforts beyond the traditional practices of buying benefit tables and matching employee contributions. Hands-on philanthropy is the new watchword, with the studio's focus squarely on its own Culver City backyard. Employees fan out for an annual volunteer day -- this year, 300 people joined Heal the Bay's beach cleanup on May 9 -- but throughout the year, employees mentor students and when the holidays arrive, they throw a huge party for 1,500 kids from Head Start. Two years ago, the studio painted the facility of the Exceptional Children's Foundation, which serves Culver City's developmentally disabled. Volunteers get time off from work as well as assignments and tools from Sony to plant gardens and work with children. Sony is particularly keen on picking up the slack in arts education to help offset cutbacks in school funding, so the studio gives grant money to Culver City's Department of Cultural Affairs as well as its historic-preservation programs. It also funds Culver City High School's Academy of Visual and Performing Arts and local theater organizations, such as the Actors' Gang's educational initiative.
Universal Studios Hollywood's Discover a Star Foundation holds golf tournaments and other events to help fund a broad swath of community organizations benefiting children's health and the homeless such as Covenant House and L.A. Family Housing. Some of Universal's philanthropic clout is exercised on a corporate level with sister company NBC and parent company General Electric. Since 2005, the NBC Universal Foundation has provided grants to organizations in cities with large numbers of employees such as New York (Abyssinian Development Corp., Learning Leaders), Los Angeles (the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center, Girls and Gangs), Miami (the Cuban American National Council) and Washington, D.C. (the Fishing School). The foundation has also donated $1 million to support public secondary education in those cities. Employees can donate time to education, community development and environmental causes through the NBCU/GE Volunteer, which was relaunched a year ago. In May, NBC Universal announced "Get on Board," a companywide program to reduce greenhouse gases. The strategy includes committing to environmentally conscious film and TV productions, such as the recent release "Evan Almighty."
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures' philanthropic priorities include children, the community and the environment. The company linked arms with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to help found and fund the Burbank Arts Education Foundation. In March 2006, the studio launched the Burbank Youth Enrichment Program, which offers college scholarships and summer internships to graduating seniors. Employees also volunteer their time to mentor at-risk youth under the auspices of A Place Called Home and Youth Mentoring Connection. Other community partners include the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, which creates "bright spaces" for kids at local homeless shelters; the James M. Wood Community Center in downtown Los Angeles, which now houses a Warner Bros. screening facility that shows films to the homeless twice a week; and Workplace Hollywood, which trains workers from diverse backgrounds for entry-level jobs in the entertainment industry. On the environmental front, the studio marshals an active waste reduction and recycling program as well as a 72-kilowatt solar power system that will generate energy for at least 30 years.
The Weinstein Co.
Harvey and Bob Weinstein are big believers in giving back, so the company donates to a long and diverse list of charities. Recipients include the American Cinematheque, the Clinton Global Initiative, Conservation International, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Geffen Playhouse, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Literacy Partners, the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Motion Picture & Television Fund, New York City Outward Bound, Norwood Children and Family Services, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and the Sundance Institute, among others.
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