The credits have rolled on the Garden State Film Festival's first appearance in Atlantic City, and the early reviews are in: This is the feel-good story of the year.
Strained movie metaphors aside, last weekend's festival was apparently everything its organizers had hoped for. Founder and Executive Director Diane Raver had nothing but great things to say about the city and the reception it gave her event.
"We're here for good," she told Press staff writer Martin DeAngelis. "This is our home now. You can't shake me with a stick."
Good. The film celebration was part of an exciting weekend in the city - along with Sunday's April Fool's Half Marathon and the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival. And it is a fine example of just what Atlantic City needs - special events that help expand the city's appeal and show off its strengths.
One of those strengths is the variety of venues the city has to offer. Screenings and other film festival events were held at Resorts Casino Hotel, Trump Taj Mahal, The Chelsea Hotel, Boardwalk Hall and Dante Hall.
And one of its featured events could have happened only in Atlantic City. Douglas Fairbanks' 1926 silent classic, "The Black Pirate," was shown at Boardwalk Hall - with accompaniment provided by the hall's recently refurbished Kimball organ.
Raver said the city's reputation made it easier to attract celebrities. Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Ed Asner and Bebe Neuwirth rubbed shoulders with home-grown filmmakers Michael Bailey and Derek K. Carson, whose film, "Mom, Wake Up!" premiered at the festival. Margate native Scott Neustadter, who wrote the "(500) Days of Summer" screenplay, received the festival's Spirit of New Jersey Award.
Raver had run the festival in Asbury Park for 11 years, until she ran up against a dispute that put access to her venues in doubt. She moved it to Atlantic City with the help of a $300,000, three-year grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. That's a comparatively cheap investment in an event that has the potential to bring many film fans to the city.
In addition to showing movies - 184 films from 16 countries were screened over four days - the festival showed how Atlantic City can both handle and enhance big events.
There's every reason to think the film festival will grow and that it and Atlantic City will be a double feature for many years.