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Celebrities get involved as IFC Center union protests continue

Angry picket lines and a gigantic inflatable rat no longer greet moviegoers at the new IFC Center, but the projectionists union continues to pressure the theater’s owners from behind the scenes. At press time, management of the IFC Center—which is owned by Rainbow Media, a division of Cablevision—still refuses to meet with IATSE Local 306 and has hired only non-union projectionists. Now some marquee names are weighing in on the controversy.

"As the other movie theaters in New York . . . have been able to come to some kind of equitable agreement with this union, I can only imagine that your stance is part of a general anti-organized-labor policy of Cablevision," John Sayles wrote in a letter to IFC Center programmer John Vanco last week, which the union forwarded to the Voice. "This is not something that I can in good conscience be a party to, and if no plans have been made to begin negotiations, I ask that you remove my name from your Board of Advisors." According to union member Jennifer Fieber, Tim Robbins and Ethan Hawke, who are also on the advisory board, likewise plan to speak to the management. (IFC representatives did not respond to requests for comments.)

"The support of the public for our cause has been fantastic," reports union president Michael Goucher, who notes that City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera, State Senator Thomas Duane, and Senator Charles Schumer have all contacted Cablevision urging them to meet with Local 306. The union continues to leaflet outside the theater.

Taking an anti-union stance, D.A. Pennebaker, whose Dylan doc Don't Look Back played at the center's opening June 17, denies reports that the screening was hampered by four false starts. In an interview with gossip blog the Reeler, Pennebaker grumbles about projectionists in decades past who damaged his prints, complaining, "Nobody wants to pay for a projectionist any more if they can help it. . . . They haven't got much to hold onto anymore."

"I was on the picket line on the day the false starts happened," Goucher responds. "People were actually leaving the theater and walking up to the box office asking for their money back."

 
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