Asbury Park’s loss will be Atlantic City’s gain this spring as the Garden State Film Festival moves to the resort.
The move, which has been speculated about for more than a month, became official Tuesday as the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority voted to provide a $300,000 incentive to the festival over three years.
The 2014 event will take place April 4 to 6 in locations throughout the city that have yet to be determined. Officials are banking on the festival as another multi-day event that will bring thousands of tourists to the city during the shoulder season. In recent years, the festival has drawn 30,000 people to Asbury Park, where officials estimate the economic impact of the four-day festival at more than $824,000.
Diane Raver, the festival’s executive director, pledged to make the event significant for Atlantic City. A native of Sea Girt, Monmouth County, Raver began the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park in 2003. She worked to grow the festival in the city that has long struggled with revitalization efforts and said she believes that experience will translate well to Atlantic City.
“Timing is everything,” Raver said. “The festival had a wonderful home in Asbury Park for more than a decade, but Atlantic City can provide us the opportunity to present and compete at a whole other level. With almost limitless venues for screening, events and hospitality, plus a local airport, the possibilities are endless.”
An ongoing disagreement between the city of Asbury Park and developer Madison Marquette left organizers searching for an alternate home when it became apparent that the festival’s main venues might be shut down. Earlier this month, Raver said Atlantic City was the front-runner to be the festival’s new home, but noted that Newark and New Brunswick also had expressed interest.
“This board has made it clear that we want the Garden State Film Festival to be here,” CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said.
On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved financing that should keep the festival tied to Atlantic City for at least the next three years. The financing will be disbursed in installments over the three-year term, Palmieri said, adding the authority expects to see a return on its investment in the form of room nights and spending in the resort.
Raver said that financing should help the festival to grow, as well as replace sponsors that were attached to the Asbury Park location. A registered nonprofit organization, the festival did not receive direct financial assistance from Asbury Park and has been funded solely by sponsorships and donations. It has lost money for three consecutive years, tax filings show.
The Downbeach Film Festival also saw support from the CRDA Tuesday as the board unanimously approved an $11,000 grant for the smaller, local festival that will celebrate its sixth anniversary in October. Also known as the Atlantic City Cinefest, the three-day festival will take place Oct. 11 to 13 with showings at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Showboat Casino Hotel, and Richard Stockton College’s Carnegie Center and Dante Hall Theater.
Festival board member Ned Eckhardt said the Downbeach festival will remain separate from the Garden State Film Festival for now, but the parties are open to consolidating in the future.
Stockton currently has a relationship with the Downbeach Film Festival and is in preliminary discussions with the Garden State Film Festival for the use of Stockton’s venues in the city, said Alex Marino, Stockton’s director of operations for Dante Hall and the Carnegie Center.
On Tuesday, the CRDA board also voted to devote $130,000 to help the Atlantic City Ballet and its 24 professional dancers relocate to Boardwalk Hall. Despite the nod to the city in the company’s name, the troupe has been based in Galloway Township since 1999.
Ballet founder and director Phyllis Papa has said the she hopes the move will increase the troupe’s visibility and create an opportunity for more performances within the city.
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