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Film Festival Fulminations
he 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival is now fully underway. It features a wide array of this year’s “stars,” everyone from six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis from the independent film Beasts of the Southern Wild (she’s now nine years old, but was six when filming began three years ago), to Argo star and director, Ben Affleck, with many names known and unknown in between. And, despite lulls and setbacks during its 27-year existence, the Festival has become quite an important place at which to exhibit one’s film or film-related product, or to show up for the scheduled salutes and honorifics Hollywood is so good at. Come to think of it – and we mean no disrespect here – there is perhaps no other business we can think of that spends so much time honoring and even glorifying its members. Except, of course, the business of government and political gamesmanship, as anyone who has ever gone to a city council or supervisors meeting can attest. Alas, friends, we digress…as usual.
Does the Film Festival Really Fuel A Fiscal Feeding Frenzy? We actually have a fairly simple question this week, directed to Santa Barbara business folk and even elected officials at the local level: Is this 11-day event good for business? Yeah, yeah…we know. We aren’t supposed to ask questions like this. Of course our beloved SBIFF is good for business. How dare the Sentinel ask such a question. It’s practically blasphemy. (Grab the pitchfork, honey; I’ll get the torch!) And Mazza’s Missive (“A Film Festival Fast Pitch”) and The Money Machine on the cover this week certainly seem to toe the proverbial line with respect to the endless bounty of riches that the Festival purportedly provides. So what gives? The truth is we figured the Festival must be good for hotels and restaurants, but we’ve had mixed reviews even with those auxiliary businesses. Restaurant owners we’ve spoken with – no names, please, no one wants to get on the bad side of festival organizers! – grouse
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that except for the eateries immediately adjacent to the theaters where films are unspooling, business is just so-so, perhaps even slower than normal. Same with hotels: the big ones, such as the Bacara, Fess Parker’s Doubletree, the Biltmore and maybe (okay, likely) the San Ysidro Ranch, probably see an increase in whatever business they may have done (and summer is their big season, not winter, so any additional business must be greeted with gratitude and enthusiasm). But what about the smaller hotels, motels, and inns: do they benefit at all? Do shopping malls, boutiques, wineries, and smaller restaurants away from the action see an increase in business? The Funk Zone? (Why aren’t there any movies in the Funk Zone, anyway, isn’t it artsy and hipster-friendly and uber-cool? We think so, for the record… so what’s the problem?) How, for example, do Goleta businesses fare during the Festival? Not so good, we are told. And that is understandable, as why would anyone from say, Los Angeles, hike it up to Goleta (unless, of course, there were some screenings going on)? Do any of these moviegoers spring for a new or used car while visiting? Do they buy clothing or go to Lazy Acres or Whole Foods? Do they, in fact, go anywhere outside the 10 blocks that stretch from Cota to Victoria? We think not. (But we’ve been wrong before.)
Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace (At Least Until Next Year) So, with that in mind, we’d like to hear other views about the Festival from Sentinel readers; we’d like to know whether the whole dog and pony show is a net positive from your perspective. Does the Festival shine such an all-encompassing light on the entire Santa Barbara area that it’s worth whatever inconvenience it may create? Is it all good or all bad? Is it something in between? Do you, as a Sentinel reader, ever even go anywhere near the film festival? Do you go to any of the movies or do you sometimes attend some of the more interesting salutes and interviews with the bigger names? Let us know; it’s probably worth the conversation it may generate. Either way, though, we’d sure like to hear from you. We actually take pleasure in throwing ideas, criticisms, observations and objections around as we responsibly enjoy (read: guzzle) a Firestone Double Barrel Ale or two and hash out what’s going into the next issue. Better yet, maybe you could join us some Wednesday evening as we put this thing to bed. We really are interested in how you feel. And we almost always have cold beers. Viva La Fiesta!... Oh, sorry… Long Live the Film Festival!
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Santa Barbara Film Festival 2013