Thanks to the Will Rogers Pioneers Assistance Fund, thousands of movie theater workers can sleep better at night. The PAF provides financial aid and support to individuals who work in theatrical exhibition and distribution, and vendors who are experiencing an illness, accident or injury.
The Pioneer of the Year Dinner, the org’s annual fundraising event, will be returning to in-person festivities Sept. 21 in Beverly Hills this year, contributing a significant chunk of the fund’s donations. Each year, the event honors a person or people due to their work in Hollywood and philanthropy. This year, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the producers behind the James Bond franchise, are being honored.
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“We take great pride in the relationships that we develop in this industry,” says Jim Orr, president of domestic theatrical distribution at Universal Pictures and chairman of the Pioneers Assistance Fund Committee. “We take great pride in the fact that we want to look after our own. It’s really that simple. We feel a duty to try to be there for the folks in this industry whenever we possibly can.”
The fund helps hundreds of workers, from popcorn poppers at the concession stand to upper-level exhibitors.
“In a traditional year, we’ll help 300 people, 400 people,” says Christina Blumer, executive director of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. “If we had hurricanes, fires or something like that, it would be closer to 600 or 700 people. In the pandemic, we helped 10,000 people.”
“[The dinner] is a time where everyone can put their business hats aside,” Blumer says. “Whatever nonsense is happening out in the industry, whatever fights are happening, people can set that aside for one night and come together to support charity. I think it’s going to be really entertaining this year, especially honoring Barbara and Michael, legends and icons in this business.
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