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Dallas Fest Moving Forward, Without AFI

Dallas Fest Moving Forward, Without AFI

The event formerly known as the AFI Dallas International Film Festival will not renew its contract with the American Film Institute. Festival parent The Dallas Film Society and the AFI announced the end of their nearly million dollar three-year agreement that saw the launch of a major new film fest in Texas.

Organizers are eyeing late March or early April as the date for their re-branded Dallas International Film Festival, Dallas Film Society Artistic Director Michael Cain told indieWIRE today. And, he added that the fest may grow back to its original size next year.

“Given the success of last years festival we are looking at expanding the festival to 11 days again but we are not locked,” Cain said, reiterating that details are still to be announced. Confirmation on the plans for the 2010 fest should be announced this summer, Cain said. His Film Society will continue to present programming throughout the year as well.

“For more than 40 years, AFI has honored and celebrated filmmaking, and their expertise and experience have been invaluable to us,” said Ruth O’Donnell Mutch, the festival’s first donor and now Chair of the Dallas Film Society board of directors, in a statement. She added that the relationship put their fest on the map, placing among the top events in the country, citing more than 100,000 attendes in their first three years.

Announced with fanfare in 2006, the first AFI Dallas fest began the following spring. Its inaugural lineup featured a whopping 200 titles for year one, backed by a sizable sponsorship from Target. Mike Jones reported on the event for indieWIRE in its first year. The sophomore fest was even bigger with some 260 films, but this year, as Eric Kohn reported for indieWIRE, it downsized to a more welcome and manageable 177 films over fewer days.

Breaking the news on his indieWIRE-hosted blog this afternoon, Mike Jones speculated that the move not to renew with AFI probably stemmed from economics. The Dallas fest is on its feet and can save a lot of cash by not spending almost seven figures on a licensing fee for the AFI name.

Michael Cain told The Dallas Observer’s Robert Wilonsky that the move is not driven by dollars. “At the end of the day, we were in some ways so successful with the collaboration it allowed us the opportunity to brand ourseclves as Dallas,” Cain told Wilonsky at the Observer. But he added, “This allows us to reinvest in Dallas. Part of the sustainability model for the festival was to grow more organically. Each year we brought fewer and fewer people from out of state to work the festival, and we programmed 95 percent of the festival on our own. AFI gave us an amazing base of knowledge to lift ourselves up, [but] we’re confident we can continue on our own.”

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