The 22nd annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLO Film Fest) has had another successful year, beating previous records for attendance and ticket and pass sales. Fundraising goals were also exceeded. The annual cultural event, presented March 15-20 this year, has been steadily growing in popularity and reputation.
Overall admissions increased to almost 10,000, a 30% gain over last year. Overall ticket sales were up 13% (excluding the Hearst Castle event in 2015 which was an unusual and un-budgeted event.)
Movie Star, Fanatic and Weekend pass sales were up an average of 33% and Mogul passes were up 350%! Out of county attendance rose by 2% over last year with increased hotel bookings, and media coverage of the Festival included articles in Huffington Post (“San Luis Obispo: The New Napa?”), Hollywood Reporter, and Yahoo News, as well as great local coverage in the Tribune, KSBY-TV and the Krush 92.5.
This year, the Festival got generous support from the City of San Luis Obispo’s TBID and used the funds for a new “Hollywood & Vines Festival Tent” which was located directly behind the Fremont Theatre in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, close to four busy festival venues. The tent was the hub for networking, a number of parties with live entertainment, wine tasting and weekend panels.
The SLO Film Fest opened this year with a memorable performance by pianist/composer Markus Horn from Hanover, Germany. He accompanied the 1923 silent film “Nosferatu” with an original score at Spanos Theatre on Cal Poly’s campus. An Opening Night party in the Festival Tent kicked off the next 5 days of non-stop independent films, events, panels and parties. Filmmakers attended approximately 80% of the screenings and awards were presented on Saturday and Sunday evenings in a variety of competitions and categories.
San Luis Obispo photographer/turned filmmaker, Sky Bergman, shared a sneak preview of “Lives Well Lived” with a sellout audience at the Fremont Theatre the following evening, with many local “celebrities” in attendance as well as her 103-year old grandmother who was the inspiration for her documentary about aging.
Another local resident was in the spotlight on Thursday evening at the Central Coast premiere of “The Divergent Series: Allegiant.” Screenwriter Anthony Peckham received the 5th Annual Spotlight Award from Festival Director Wendy Eidson, and then joined the film series’ production designer, Alec Hammond, for a Q&A after the movie.
The 11th annual “Surf Nite in SLO” event at the historic Fremont Theatre was another sellout again this year, and included on-stage antics with local surfing goats and their entertaining owner, Dana McGregor, as well as an inspirational Q&A with big wave surfer Chris Bertish after a screening of a new documentary about him – “Ocean Driven.”
The 2016 King Vidor Award recipient, Ann-Margret, entertained audiences in a lively conversation with TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz after being presented with the award by former King Vidor Award recipient, Alan Arkin. A selection of movies she has starred in were played throughout the Festival, including the Closing Night Sing-along – “Bye Bye Birdie.”
Fall fundraising events also gave the festival a boost in revenue and publicity. “Jesus Christ Superstar” lead Ted Neeley attended a screening in October and an event that celebrated Cuba in November collectively raised about $20,000 and helped remind supporters about the 22nd Annual Festival.
The Festival also re-branded this year with the help of photographer/graphic designer Barry Goyette, who designed a new logo and developed a provocative marketing campaign used throughout the Festival.
The SLO Film Fest recently received news that it was included once again on the coveted “50 Top Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” list published by MovieMaker Magazine in April. This list guides filmmakers on their submission choices and helped double the Festival’s film submissions two years ago when it was first listed.
Plans are already underway for the next SLO Film Fest, planned for March 14-19, 2017. Sponsor inquiries are welcome and the festival will be accepting new film submissions in July 2016.