Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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26th Virginia Film Festival Was Boffo at the Box Office

The Virginia Film Festival kicked off its second quarter-century in record-breaking style, smashing its previous ticket sales record set during last year’s 25th anniversary celebration.

The festival, presented by the University of Virginia, included four days of screenings, lectures and film-related activities. It ended Sunday.

Officials announced Tuesday that this year’s festival set all-time marks at the box office, coming in at $120,156 in total sales, an increase of 11 percent over last year’s receipts. The 2013 edition issued more than 27,000 tickets in all, and boasted 35 sold-out screenings.

“We are delighted to share the news that this year’s festival has once again put us in uncharted territory when it comes to ticket sales,” Jody Kielbasa, the festival’s director and U.Va.’s vice provost for the arts, said. “It is a credit not only to the hard work of our staff and volunteers, but also to the extraordinarily supportive and culturally engaged members of this community, who year after year come out in force to enjoy and interact with the festival on so many levels and in so many ways.”

He noted that interest seemed to be spread throughout the entire festival.

“We were thrilled to see a full house for our higher-profile events, such as our opening night screening of ‘Nebraska’ with special guests Will Forte and producer Ron Yerxa, and for our Friday night screening of ‘The Birds’ with Tippi Hedren,” he said. “But when you look deeper into our program, it is particularly satisfying to me and to our programmer, Wesley Harris, to see the tremendous response to films that might not have been as well-known before the festival.

“This really speaks to our mission, and to our ongoing desire to create a dynamic and ongoing dialogue around the films we show and the issues that surround them.”

The program included works from filmmakers who hailed from around the world – and from Virginia.

“I continue to be amazed by the quality of films coming from right here in the commonwealth,” Kielbasa said. “And we were so happy to provide a well-deserved spotlight for a number of talented Virginia filmmakers with films like ‘I Used to Be Darker,’ ‘CLAW,’ ‘Seasons with Brian and Julia,’ ‘Blue Ruin’ and so many others.”

Kielbasa cited “CLAW,” which portrayed the culture around Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers, a group that has expanded nationwide to raise funds through an unusual entertainment vehicle, as an example of a film with local roots and national appeal.

“When we decided to slot this film into our Saturday night Centerpiece Film slot, we knew it would be more than a film – it would be an event that could be shared by the people who made it, who are featured in it, and the community who helped launch CLAW around the country and around the world,” he said.

The festival’s featured guests also were instrumental in the festival’s success, Kielbasa said.

“Will Forte, Jorma Taccone and Tippi Hedren all went above and beyond to share their talents and experiences through meetings with U.Va. students and through generous interactions with our audiences,” he said.

The festival’s traditional Saturday “Family Day” activities shifted from the Downtown Mall to U.Va.’s Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds for the first time this year. Kielbasa called it “a perfect example of the festival’s ability to engage with the U.Va. academic community, while shining a well-deserved spotlight on the extraordinary arts offerings available on the Grounds all year long.”

The festival’s sponsors included The AV Company, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Flow Audi of Charlottesville, Regal Entertainment Group and the Virginia Film Office.

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