The 100-plus-year-old Motion Picture & Television Fund, hit by a “perfect storm” of rising expenses and declining revenue, is facing its “imminent demise” and the very real prospect of closing its doors and going out of business by the end of 2022 unless it gets a dramatic infusion of cash donations.

“Our mission has never faced such dire challenges,” MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher says in an urgent appeal that’s going out to some 600 industry leaders. “To put it bluntly, the MPTF legacy and mission – our ability to exist – are in real jeopardy. Our ability to continue to support the thousands of industry members on our campus and in the community who depend on the MPTF for food, shelter, charitable assistance, medical care and socialization, literally hangs in the balance. Without some dramatic infusion of funds, we will not be able to take care of our own much longer.”

“After more than a decade as CEO of MPTF, I’m writing a letter I hoped I’d never have to write:­ one that says we desperately and urgently need your help,” he wrote. “Coming through the pandemic, every member of the MPTF fiduciary team has been forced to take a hard look at our financial circumstances; and right now, things don’t look good.

“Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, MPTF has incurred a staggering operating shortfall­ the result of a pernicious combination of Covid-related costs for residents and staff on our campus in Woodland Hills, nursing shortages and lower occupancy rates, and lost revenues from our major events during the pandemic — all costing us over $20 million. Tag onto that the recent drop in our investment portfolio! Never sufficiently endowed, MPTF has always survived year to year and deficit to deficit. We are now operating in dangerous territory, rapidly depleting our cash reserves.”

See his full letter to industry leaders here.

The pandemic’s impact on MPTF’s finances has been profound. According to MPTF, the 101-year-old charity has lost an estimated $22 million from 2020 through the end of this year due to the pandemic, including more than $9 million in direct Covid expenses, over $7 million in lost revenue, and nearly $7 million in shortfalls from Covid-impacted fundraising events. The losses would have been even greater if not for $1,296,108 in federal provider-relief funding.

Beitcher told Deadline that “Covid costs of over $20 million over the past three years, a decline in our investment portfolio, and lower fund-raising have all combined to create a perfect storm of putting MPTF against the wall in terms of its ability to meet its bank line compliance and continue ongoing operations. So, we wanted to put this out now and give the industry the opportunity to step up and be counted before it’s too late.

“If we don’t raise $10 million-$12 million by the end of the year in cash, then we risk breaking our bank covenant. What the bank does after that is really unclear. The bank has a lot of options, but in theory it could push us to the point of insolvency.

“We borrowed $20 million plus – this was before my time – in the early 2000s. Part of it was to complete the construction of the Stark Villas, and part of it was to do other construction work around the campus. We have paid it out regularly since then, but we’ve got about $13 million left outstanding on that loan. We have the ability to keep paying it down at the rate we’re paying it, but the bank line requires us to maintain a certain cash balance that’s in excess of the outstanding loan, and that’s what we risk falling under.”

Asked if it’s possible that the MPTF could soon go out of business, he said: “That’s one possibility, for sure.”

As for the 250 retirees who live on the MPTF’s campus in Woodland Hills, Beitcher said: “It’s unthinkable to me that our industry would fail to find the generosity to keep MPTF going, but you can imagine that over 250 residents, many of whom are the most frail and vulnerable in our community, of being forced out, to live their final years in much lesser conditions because we couldn’t find the philanthropy to sustain this enterprise.

“We know how our industry reacted 13 years ago when we considered closing our skilled nursing facility. It was ugly, and rightfully so. People said, ‘Why didn’t you tell us it was in trouble?’ Now we are, and we’re giving everyone the opportunity to step up and support with sustaining gifts. But the bottom line is that in some fashion – don’t ask me how that happens or when it happens – that we wouldn’t be able to pay staff and we would have to work with our residents to find housing elsewhere. And people that we give charitable assistance to in the community, we’d have to tell them that our help with their rent, our help with their caregivers, our help with everything else we’ve done to sustain them, is going to go away. It’s unthinkable, but that’s what we’re looking at.”

In his letter to industry leaders, Beitcher noted that many have left the MPTF in their wills but stressed that that will be of little use if the charity goes out of business before they die. “In recent years,” he wrote, “we have received a number of exceedingly generous pledges to be paid out in the future, upon the death of the donors; but frankly, in this moment, it’s pointless to finance our future if we can’t survive the present. We need your help now! As an industry leader, you can make a difference in the lives of those who worked to sustain our industry by matching my own personal giving pledge of at least $20,000 per year for five years. And you can help further by introducing us to new potential donors.”

“Your pledge, and those of others, will make the difference between MPTF’s existence for the next generations and its imminent demise,” he wrote. “I know we can solve this, because we must if MPTF is to outlast this financial crisis and continue to provide services to our community.”

Beitcher, who has made such a pledge himself, told Deadline that “I’m not asking people to do any more than what I’m doing.”

The MPTF will also be reaching out personally to 50 or so top industry leaders who can make “much larger gifts,” he said. “It’s all hands on deck. There are giants in our industry – companies and individuals – who have done exceptionally well for themselves financially in the entertainment industry over the years. But I don’t think we should be blind to the fact that thousands of industry workers on film and TV sets every day that did the hard work to help these people and companies make their fortunes, and those are the folks that MPTF is serving. So, it’s time for some of these giants to step up and do the right thing.

“Let’s be clear,” he told Deadline, “there are a lot of individuals and companies in the industry who have been generous to us over the years – some of them in years past, but not recently – so we’re gonna be talking to those folks, and a lot of those who gave recently as well, and I want to make it clear that we’re very grateful to them. But there are a lot of folks who have done well in this industry and have not seen the need to support the fund, and I think it’s time for everyone to put behind them the idea that MPTF will be around forever; that it’s well-funded and shed the mentality that others will support it and that they don’t have to, and to get real about what’s happening. Because we’re either going to raise a lot of money by the end of the year, or we’ll be faced with a busted bank line and the need to close the doors.”

He’s also asking rank-and-file industry members to dig a little deeper. “It’s a similar message, but obviously we’re not going to be asking them for $20,000 a year for five years. It’s gonna be at a level that they can give, because this is there for them. Most of our residents are not moguls – they’re industry workforce people, and if those folks want the campus and the community charitable financial assistance to be there for them or their set mates and their workmates, then they need to give us some recurring monthly gift – it can be $10 a month, but they need to get on the list and support this organization.”

Founded in 1921 by Mary Pickford, the MPTF, Beitcher noted, “has existed for 101 years. It’s a charity that makes the entertainment industry unique in terms of taking care of its own. We’ve existed thanks to the philanthropy of our industry members and their generosity. That’s how we get from one year to the next. If that philanthropy dries up or declines at a time when the need is the highest, with all these Covid costs and everything else, then we’re not going to sustain. It’s this perfect storm of 60,000-plus Covid tests, setting up the lab, PPE, isolation units when we have residents who are infected, rising costs everywhere, unfilled beds because we can’t find enough nursing staff to fill the beds – that’s lost revenue for us. And three years of either virtual fund-raising events or live events where people were concerned about coming or sponsors were concerned about supporting because their business was down – that alone – the events part has cost us $9 million over the last three years. We just didn’t have a big enough bank account going into this crisis to come out of it as a viable organization.”

Beitcher, however, said he remains confident that the MPTF will weather the “perfect storm” once the industry recognizes the severity of the situation. “What helps me sleep and night and wake up ready for a new day,” he said, “is my deeply held conviction that our industry just isn’t going to let this amazing charity – one that has produced a safety net for the workforce for over a hundred years; one that served 10,000 industry workers with charitable assistance of over $7 million during the pandemic and made 30,000 check-in calls – just go away. I get that this is a tough time in the industry; that bad economic conditions have hit investment portfolios. But I also know that there are hundreds of industry leaders who can rise above all that with solid financial support for MPTF. I am going to be working day and night, as I have been, and I’m confident we’re going to pull this off.”

Even so, he said, “I don’t want to scare the crap out of our residents, and I don’t want to lose staff who may start running to the doors looking for new jobs. That’s the balance I’m trying to find.”

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