Each year, the month of January signals not only the beginning of a new year but it also signifies the commencement of film festival season. Although many times only the most renown festivals get the headlines, such as Cannes, Sundance, Los Angeles, New York, and even Telluride, it is important to point out that across the country, many small cities and towns hold smaller film festivals of their own that bring together indie cinephiles under one common purpose: to step away from mainstream cinema and experience the unconventional and original films that festivals have to offer. However, are the venues that house these film festivals as important as the events themselves?
Let’s look at Florida’s comparatively smaller film festival circuit, which is no exception to the use of independent or art house theaters to host international and community indie film festivals. The Stonzek Theater in Lake Worth is home to the L-Dub Film Festival, which was founded five years ago by the conjoined efforts of the theater and the Lake Worth Playhouse, in the hope of gathering a local display of filmmakers, actors, writers and film students, which would allow them to present their projects to the public.
The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, which takes place between November 6-November 22, shares its screenings in two independent film venues: The Cinema Paradiso located in Hollywood and another venue of the same name in Fort Lauderdale. Both theaters are small in size, described by the organizers of FLIFF as “year-round art houses”, because they continuously screen indie and foreign films that are rarely shown in any other movie theaters in the area.
Conversely, The Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF) had until last year, shared its screenings with the larger chain film venues, such as Muvico in City Place, West Palm Beach and the Cobb Theater, in Palm Beach Gardens. However, the festival organizers coincided that it was time for the festival to have a venue of its own, therefore making the old Plaza Theater in Manalapan, the new Palm Beaches Theater, the festival’s new abode which opened earlier this year under extensive renovations and a new management headed by Jeff Davis, who incidentally, owns PBIFF’s new screening venue, according to an article written by The Palm Beach Post last August.
The decision to move the film festival from large theater chains like Muvico and Cobb to bring it under the roof of an independent movie house is perhaps more in tune to the true spirit of film festivals. After all, the most powerful reason why such festivals exist in the first place, is to vehemently move away from mainstream thinking and conventionality; and what a better way to that than to host them in the unique and distinctive surroundings of an art house theater.