Friday, December 10, 1999

Film festival
looking good

A decision to start charging
admission has not hurt its
attendance or the bottom line

By Tim Ryan


Art Three years after the Hawaii International Film Festival began charging admission, the organization is debt-free.

Box office revenues from last month's festival totaled about $109,000, up 25 percent from $82,000 a year before, said festival executive director Christian Gaines.

Attendance on Oahu climbed 10 to 15 percent this year from 1998 despite fewer films being shown. The number of tickets sold increased to 18,747 this year from 14,689 last year.

The figure does not include tickets given to the 1,000 Hawaii Film Society members, who get at least six depending on their type of membership, and tickets for corporate sponsors, news media, delegates and special pass holders.

The increases have to do "with quality of content and increased appreciation and awareness of alternative, independent films," Gaines said.

He also noted improved methods for the public to buy tickets and better, more convenient venues for films, including three of the 18 theaters at Signature's Dole Cannery site.

The festival began charging admission in 1997, but only for 35mm films on Oahu. Last year, admission was charged throughout the festival.

Admission was necessary because state funding to the organization was drastically cut and it had about $90,000 of debt, Gaines said. Before this year's festival, that amount had been cut to $40,000, he said.

The festival's annual budget is slightly less than $700,000, a combination of private, corporate and public monies, with corporate sponsorship contributing "a huge amount," said Gaines.

He hopes the budget will increase "a little but not outrageously" for the year 2000 festival, the organization's 20th anniversary.

Gaines said it is premature to discuss festival plans for next year, but added that there will be "an increase in glitz and glamour."

"We're ... going after big stars to make opening night and all the galas something very, very special so people get their money's worth, but nothing cheesy," he said.

Gaines said his wish list for the festival includes having a permanent home with a theater to show films throughout the year, a quality souvenir program guide -- especially for its 20th anniversary -- and Los Angeles-based public relations representation for better access to celebrities and increased visibility.

The festival's lone publicist is based in Hawaii.

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