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May 7, 2003 2:00 AM
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Busy Sidewalks and Ticket Sales As Tribeca Film Fest Opens

Busy Sidewalks and Ticket Sales As Tribeca Film Fest Opens

by Eugene Hernandez









Pictured at the Tribeca Film Festival are, from left, Peter Scarlet, John Hayes, Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal, Charles Gargano, Craig Hatkoff.

Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

News of solid ticket sales met the start of the second-annual Tribeca Film Festival in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday. After a weekend of family film screenings and a number of parties on Monday night, the event formally kicked-off with a six-block street procession, the opening-night gala screening of Peyton Reed's Hollywood studio film, "Down With Love," and a glitzy post-screening party at the recently restored Winter Garden (adjacent to the World Trade Center site).

Organizers announced that the festival has already sold some 49,000 tickets as of Monday night. That's a jump from the 19,000 tickets that had been sold at the same point for last year's inaugural event. Sales are no doubt driven in part by high-profile marketing of the event by sponsor American Express and more film programs on tap for this year's event. Nearly 400 screenings are set for this year's fest, that's about twice as many as last year.

About 25,000 paid and ticketed patrons attended the event in 2002 with another 125,000 people attending the free public events such as the street fair and the MTV Rock and Comedy Concert. Total attendance is a key statistic for organizers, including co-founder Jane Rosenthal and Charles Gargano, who is chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, as the fest's primary aim has been to revitalize foot traffic and commerce in the Lower Manhattan. At a Tuesday morning press conference, Rosenthal, fest co-founder, business partner, and restaurateur Robert De Niro, Gargano, fest executive director Peter Scarlet, and John Hayes from American Express predicted that this year would see even greater numbers of people in the neighborhood with a number of new, free public gatherings.

While busy sidewalks are a key focus for the festival, another important element is the festival's focus on local film production. When asked about the festival's commitment to energizing New York's film production community which has been suffering as of late, organizers touted some of the changes in this year's event. Scarlet and programmers David Kwok and Nancy Schafer launched a NY, NY section at this year's festival to include more films that were predominantly shot in New York City. Twenty-three narrative and documentary features are screening in the section. Also addressing the issue in a conversation following Tuesday's press conference, Pat Swinney Kaufman from the NY Governor's Office and Katherine Oliver from the NYC Mayor's Office offered that the city and state are doing more and more to encourage local filming.

[EDITORS NOTE: indieWIRE will have more extensive coverage of films in the section and a report on production in New York City in tomorrow's edition.]

Gray skies welcomed the pomp and circumstance of the opening of the fest on Tuesday, with a six-block street procession through TriBeCa and a ceremony of remembrance. Among those on hand for the walk down Greenwich Street were Wynton Marsalis, who performed a special musical arrangement, the ARC Gospel Choir and the Jackie Robinson Steppers, Bono from U2, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor from the opening night film "Down With Love," marching bands, and festival juror and sponsor Miuccia Prada. The procession ended at The Tribeca Performing Arts Center where the film debuted at a gala premiere.

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