Hope’s predecessor was Bingham Ray, who died of a stroke at age 57 in January 2012. Ray succeeded Graham Leggat, who died after a long struggle with cancer in August 2011.
If no successor is found for Hope by the time he leaves, three directors are likely to run the Film Society collectively: Rachel Rosen (director of programming), Joanne Parsont (director of education) and Michele Turnure Salleo (director of the Filmmaker360 program).
Hope, 51, is leaving after an unusually brief tenure on apparently good terms with the board of directors, who invited him both to help with the search for a new director and to serve on the society’s advisory board.
When asked to explain his stated reason for quitting, he said, “much as I fully embrace the mission of the Film Society, my passion is more entrepreneurial.”
Hope told The San Francisco Examiner that, “The Film Society’s mission of advancing film culture has many aspects — exhibition, education, filmmaker services — and it has a long history of great success in all. It has a significant legacy that must be safeguarded at all times.
“I have launched several companies and close to 70 films in less than 25 years. It is a different way of working. When there is an opportunity or a problem to solve, I like to leap in,” he said. “Our industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, and with it comes many opportunities. I want to take advantage of that in a way that is more the realm of the ‘lean startup’ than such a substantial organization as the Film Society.”
Hope said he and his wife will stay in the Bay Area, and are “looking forward to staying involved in an advisory role and collaborating with the Film Society in our film-related activities.”
The Film Society, operating with an annual budget of more than $5 million, is responsible for the world-renowned San Francisco International Film Festival, and — since Leggat’s directorship — a year-around program of screenings, in addition to numerous educational and filmmaker-support programs.
The festival, started in 1957 by San Francisco theater operator Irving Levin, is the oldest continuing major film festival in North America.