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Joanne Koch, Influential Film Society of Lincoln Center Executive, Dies at 92

Joanne Koch, the longtime executive director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center who helped shape the culture of cinema in NY and all over the world, has died. She was 92.

Koch died Tuesday in NY, a spokesperson for Film at Lincoln Center, because the organization is currently known, toldThe Hollywood Reporter.

Koch, who worked at the house of the prestigious NY Film Festival from 1971-2003, also served as publisher of the societysFilm Commentmagazine and co-produced 19 Chaplin Award galas, which honor a significant film artist each spring as a significant fundraising event. Her stretch began with Fred Astaire in 1973 and ended with Audrey Hepburn in 1991.

An insatiable lover of movies, Koch was created in Brooklyn on Oct. 19, 1929. She graduated from Goddard College in Vermont with a qualification in political science in 1950, then landed employment that year as a researcher in the film department at the Museum of Modern Art.

She exited MoMA in 1954 to improve a family group but returned in 1965 when she became the technical director responsible for its film preservation program. However, she left again in 1967 due to a nepotism rule, that went into effect when she married Richard Koch, MoMAs in-house counsel and director of administration.

After 3 years at Grove Press she supervised the subtitling and dubbing of films in its collection and was section of the legal team associated with the censorship trial of the erotic 1967 Swedish filmI’M Curious (Yellow) Koch joined the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1971 as a freelancer to program its Movies in the Park series.

I recall with some amusement that in a park in the Bronx we’d programmed Carroll Ballards short called Pigs, that was a charming film about those animals, she recalled. However, many younger members of the audience were anticipating a film concerning the police and began pelting the screen with beverage cans if they were disappointed.

Soon, she assumed leadership of the brand new York Film Festival.

In 1972, she helped launch the annual New Directors/New Films springtime event and assisted in Charlie Chaplins go back to the U.S. after years in exile.

Chaplin was honored [weeks later] by the Academy of FILM Arts and Sciences, & most of the coverage of his return assumes he found receive his Oscar, but he actually found us first and at our invitation, Koch noted.

The function was so successful, the Film Society made a decision to set up a program to fete a prominent film person each year. Other honorees under her watch included Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, George Cukor, Barbara Stanwyck, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Claudette Colbert, Federico Fellini and Bette Davis.

Koch initiated the acquisition ofFilm Commentin 1974, then waspromoted to executive director of the Film Society in 1977. She also served a long time because the organizations CFO and was named to the board of directors in 1999.

Her passion and determination led the business from the first days of the annual NY Film Festival to the opening of the Walter Reade Theater in 1991 and the development of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, which opened in 2011, Film at Lincoln Center noted.

Koch received a Chevalier of Arts & Letters honor from the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and was called an Officer of Arts and Letters by the French National Center of Cinematography in 2000.

In 2012, she co-edited with Laura Kem and Richard Pea NY Film Festival Gold, a publication that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the brand new York Film Festival. The longtime Greenwich Village resident was the Film at Lincoln Centers emeritus executive director during her death.

Her first husband was Oscar Godbout, who became the Wood, Field and Stream columnist atTHE BRAND NEW York Times.

Survivors include her daughter, Andrea; stepsons Chapin, Jeremy and Stephen; and two grandsons.

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