“Can it really be so hard for a museum with a budget of $74 million last year to cover a loss that averages out to $100,000 a year?,” asks Time‘s Richard Lacayo in a piece that posted yesterday about the recently announced decision by Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to more or less deep-six the film program.

LACMA director Michael Govan

“The good news, maybe, is that some re-thinking already seems to be underway — a rethinking of the whole idea of abandoning the program. Govan may have been taken by surprise by the backlash to his decision about the program. Govan has said from the start that a $5 million endowment would be enough to put the program back up and running. (More recently he’s mentioned $10 million as an even better number.) On Sept. 1 he plans to sit down with members Save Film at LACMA for a “popcorn summit” at which supporters of the program hope to come up with ways to avoid even a temporary “suspension” that many people suspect will become permanent.

Govan. whose total compensation will come to $6 million over a five-year period that began in ’06, “happens to be a peerless fund raiser, and LACMA’s board of trustees includes people from the filmmaking community like Ron Howard‘s producing partner Brian Grazer and Terry Semel, who used to head Warner Brothers.

Could it be that the Hollywood studios can’t unite to scrape together a few million to underwrite a program devoted to the history of what they do? More than that, can LACMA really be thinking of walking away from its cultural responsibilities in an area this important? If that happens, you can paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard: “The pictures are still big. It’s the museums that got small.”

Here, by the way, is that Martin Scorsese piece that went up last week. Ditto a Facebook page and an on-line petition to support the program here that has attracted about 2400 signatures so far.