One of the cultural annual highlights in Arizona for Phoenix cinéastes that are hungering for off the track movies is coming on March 29th at Scottsdale 101. The Phoenix Film Festival will span from March 29th to April 4th and will feature an eclectic array of films that will see theatres throughout 2012. Tickets range from $12 a screening to a General Pass to the entire festival for $300 that would be less costly than paying for individual screenings. There will be more than its share of seminars and events that will feature both directors and actors for audiences to participate. There is also educational opportunities for middle schools and high schools to bring their relevant classes to learn about the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. Phoenix Underground contacted the festival director Jason Carney and asked, what are some highlights of this festival that are different from last year? ”This year there are a few new additions. Our family event, Kids’ Day on Saturday has expanded five hours and will run from 9am to 2pm. In addition at the Saturday night party we’ve integrated more performing groups like Scorpius Dance and Provocatease.” Plus, if you are an avid fan of science fiction and horror, the festival will be partnering up with the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival, which will screen films from all levels of production. Mr. Carney said,”Robot and Frank will be screened on our opening night and The Intouchables will be screened as our Sunday night film.” This year Carney is hoping with a great film lineup and growing exposure that the festival will surpass the 22,000 total attendance mark this year.
Harkins Theatres has been a strong supporter of Phoenix Film Festival for nine years. Harkins deserves to be lauded for its support and hospitality of the event. Harkins Theatres got started by Red Harkins when he was 18 years old in 1931 in Tempe which still stands as The Valley Art. When asked if there are any intentions to possibly move the event downtown, Carney said, “We are very happy with Harkins as our theatre partner and they don’t currently have a theatre downtown. A move downtown would make it difficult to continue that partnership. We have been happily working with them and the Scottsdale 101 shopping center for nine years and they’ve both been helpful in fostering the growth of the event.” This makes total sense for the Phoenix Film Festival to conduct the event at Scottsdale 101. It is the interest of the festival and its participants to have a venue that works for everyone. However, one of the problems with the location is that it’s tucked away in the far corner of Phoenix like a grandmother trying to hide a family heirloom from her grandchildren, so it does not get broken. Another problem with the Scottsdale 101 shopping center is that although it is still located in Phoenix proper, it promotes the perception the film festival is a Scottsdale event, not a Phoenix event. Even Harkins Camelview 5 theatre one of the few if only theatre to feature independent and foreigns film is located at Fashion Square Mall which is travel-prohibitive for many residents in the valley. The Phoenix Film Festival should be a community pride event that is thankfully hosted by an Arizona owned theatre chain. But, it should be accessible by the entire Valley. Scottsdale’s shadows looms over the event, and for or better or worse, Scottsdale has an aura of indifference perceived by other towns in the valley.
The only major theatre in the downtown area is AMC Theatres, which is based out of Kansas City, Missouri, located on 3rd Street at the Arizona Center. It is not an Arizona company and their theatres are not locally owned franchises. It makes more financial sense for Phoenix Film Festival to continue partnering with Harkins because it is an Arizona company. As interest in the event grows, there are many venues in a more central area in the downtown area that can host screenings for the Phoenix Film Festival. As attendance surpasses 22,000, it is going to be essential to find additional facilities to screen films. The Phoenix Art Museum has a theatre that can support screenings, Film Bar has a unique venue, which is a ”brew and view” that can support the festival. The Orpheum would be another wonderful venue to facilitate an amazing experience for film screenings. Even Monorchid on Roosevelt Row and the Civic Space Park by ASU’s downtown campus has a proven ability to screen films in areas that are pedestrian friendly with accessible public transportation. No Festival Required has screened films successfully at both of these facilities. The proper technical elements could be installed to provide for the best visual and audio experience for festival attendees. In addition to this, there are local restaurants, bars, and cafes that festival goers can go to along the light rail. If Phoenix is going to showcase the restaurants in the city, it should be Pizzeria Bianco at Heritage Square, not Buffalo Wild Wings at Scottsdale 101.
It’s wonderful that we have an Arizona company like Harkins supporting the festival, but it would behoove Phoenix Film Festival organizers to bring screenings to the Downtown. This does not necessarily mean stop using Scottsdale 101 as a host for the event. If only a smattering of films from the festival were scheduled downtown at reasonable times during the event, it would allow for more visitors downtown. Scottsdale 101 is not a pedestrian friendly area that appeals to the average festival goer. The only exception would be The Compound Grill, which is a rare establishment in that shopping center. Otherwise, festival fans can pass the time browsing at the Sports Authority and maybe look at the blackened windows of the empty Borders Bookstore. At the same time, the City of Phoenix needs to take the initiative to support Phoenix Film Festivals presence in the downtown area, especially in light of the Super Bowl coming in 2015. Phoenix Film Festival will provide good test runs for the city to host such a large event. The model organization for organizing the film festival in the downtown area would be The Salt Lake Film Society. They are in the state that hosts Sundance Film Festival that allows for screenings outside of Park City, Utah where the festival takes place. At the same time, The Salt Lake Film Society does a great job balancing films between theatres in Salt Lake. It would be well in the interest of The Phoenix Film Society to look to their model to organize more films between theatres and alternative venues. Overall, it’s about making sure that filmmakers’ work is seen by many people as possible, while filling seats in theatres and getting more people to the Phoenix Film Festival.
Fortunately, if you are trying to get to the event, there are transportation options other than a car. Valley Metro does have several options to get to Scottsdale 101. If you are coming from Tempe, the best route is the 72 Line that will take you straight north from Tempe on Scottsdale Road. If you are coming from Downtown Phoenix or the West Valley, the best option is to take the light rail to the Tempe Transit Center and catch the 72 Line. There are other busing options from the West Valley like the 685 Line from the West Valley that will take you to the Desert Sky Transit Center, where you can catch the 41 Line that will take you to Scottsdale to catch the 72 Line. But, these options from the West Valley will take up to two to three hours to reach Scottsdale 101.