LOS ANGELES – Nine-year-old Adalyn Ficken snuggled next to her dad in the reclining movie-theater seats, clutching a teddy bear in one hand and a cup of popcorn in the other, waiting for the film to start.
A pudgy 5-year-old boy tugging an IV pole behind him raced into the theater, his mom rushing up behind him. Some of the moviegoers wore hospital gowns or arrived in wheelchairs.
Far away from the starry happenings around Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, this Lollipop Theater Network screening of “Ferdinand” at a local children’s hospital is among hundreds of film events made possible by the profitability of the annual awards show. While stars may consider the show an opportunity to swig Champagne and socialize with their well-dressed pals, nonprofit groups see the Globes as a source of much-needed financial support.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been sharing spoils from the Globes’ international broadcast with arts-oriented nonprofits for 30 years. With the millions of dollars in licensing fees NBC pays annually to air the show, the HFPA has sponsored scholarships and film restoration, provided equipment and training for aspiring filmmakers and funded scores of screenings at schools, museums and hospitals.
As a nonprofit itself, “supporting the things we think are important is part of the HFPA’s mandate,” said Meher Tatna, the organization’s president.
The HFPA has given almost $30 million to date, including $2.8 million in grants presented at a star-studded banquet in August. Among the recipients for the past dozen years is the Lollipop Theater Network, which brings first-run films and other entertainment events to children’s hospitals across the country. The HFPA gave the group $20,000 in 2016 and 2017.
Those funds have allowed for 180 Lollipop Theater screenings in Southern California, including the recent showing of “Ferdinand” at Children’s Hospital Orange County, according to executive director Evelyn Iocolano. With screenings every few weeks, patients, siblings and parents are invited to watch the film in the hospital’s dedicated theater, where they could munch on popcorn and frozen yogurt from a free snack bar, or enjoy movies from the privacy of their hospital rooms.
Studios provide several copies of each film so the sickest patients can stay in bed for screenings, said Laila Ayad of Lollipop. Regardless of where they watch, though, they receive a proper movie ticket and sometimes souvenirs. Fox representatives brought “Ferdinand” posters, magnets and plush toys to the Orange County screening.
“It was so emotional!” said Gisselle Jay, who escaped to the hospital theater with her husband and two kids for “Ferdinand” while their third child was receiving treatment.
Eight-year-old Haleyn seconded her mom’s opinion, both of the film and the Lollipop Theater experience.
“It was awesome,” she said, cradling her Ferdinand doll.
While studios provide the films for Lollipop Theater screenings, Ayad said the HFPA’s support covers staffing, logistics and other needs.
“For a nonprofit, the funding you get from organizations like the HFPA is vital,” she said.
The organization sponsors screenings for an entirely different audience at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The HFPA is the lead supporter of Film Independent’s screening series at the museum, which features filmmakers and actors discussing their work with critic and curator Elvis Mitchell.
“Without their support, that program simply would not exist,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh. “The support from the HFPA is so critical to what we do…. I don’t think people know how much the HFPA does to support film and film organizations and film schools.”
Welsh said that beyond the LACMA screening series, the HFPA supports Film Independent’s Project Involve, an intensive filmmaking education program aimed at underrepresented storytellers.
In Hollywood’s ongoing discussions about diversity and inclusivity, Project Involve “is one of those places that actually gives a voice to people who’ve been marginalized,” said Effie T. Brown, a film producer who graduated from its inaugural class and now serves as a mentor for the program.
“My career would not be where it is today if it weren’t for Project Involve and for the people and organizations that support it,” said Brown, whose credits include “Real Women Have Curves” and the 2014 Sundance hit “Dear White People.”
The HFPA gave Project Involve $60,000 last year.
Tatna, the HFPA president, said the organization has dedicated grants officers to identify and vet possible recipients. Its philanthropic efforts are centered on film education, preservation and appreciation. Beneficiaries have included CalArts, UCLA, the American Film Institute, the Sundance Institute, Ghetto Film School, Inner City Arts and Global Girl Media.
“We are all journalists and we got into the field because we enjoy movies, we love movies,” Tatna said of her HFPA colleagues. “It just makes us feel good that we are supporting the next generation of filmmakers.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.