Attendance was up 30% to 33% for the second edition of the annual Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival, based on a preliminary tally of individual ticket sales and passes, said fest director Denis Pregnolato. Estimated boxoffice revenues were $75,000.
Director Yves Robert’s French pics “La Gloire De Mon Pere” and “La Chateau De Ma Mere” tied for most popular films at the fest in the first audience-voted awards there. Both Gaumont-distribbed films, which bookended the fest as opening and closing selections, came close to selling out the 785-seat Plaza Theater.
Winner of the audience-voted best director award from among a 10-picture New Directors Showcase was Barry Alexander Brown for his Arista debut film, “Lonely In America,” about a young East Indian immigrant living in Manhattan. Brown was the film editor on “Do The Right Thing” and “Salaam Bombay!”
“Lonely In America” also came in second in audience voting as most popular film.
Other audience favorites, in order of votes, were Cineville’s “Delusion” (U.S.), directed by Carl Colpaert; Luc Besson’s “La Femme Nikita” (France); Jiri Weiss’ “Martha And Me” (Germany-France); Otakar Votocek’s “Wings Of Fame” (Netherlands); and Jacques Fansten’s “Cross My Heart” (France).
Favorite new directors, after Brown, were Charles MacDougall for “Arrividerci, Millwall” (U.K.); Brad Battersby for “Blue Desert” (U.S.); Duane Clark for “Shaking The Tree” (U.S.); and Thaddeus O’Sullivan for “December Bride” (Ireland). About 2,200 ballots were cast, said Pregnolato.
All in all, the second chapter of the desert oasis filmathon, conceived and brought to life last year by Mayor Sonny Bono, received reviews that indicated it is coming into its own remarkably fast.
The “hick” profile and advanced years of the average festgoer in this retirement community, source of some amusement to L.A. attendees, is apparently being seen as an asset by some industryites.
“You get an audience which is very sort of middle America, with a regional sensibility,” said New Line senior publicity v.p. Alison Emilio. “Filmmakers sometimes need to pull away from the hub to focus on what’s going on with the audience.”
“It’s a useful audience to test a movie on and a good first step in the distribution process,” said Seth Willenson, exec producer of “Delusion,” which world premiered at the fest.
Among the highlights this year was a Saturday night screening of a 70m restored print of “West Side Story” at the Courtyard, followed by a huge party for which festgoers paid $35 a ducat. About 350 attended a $150-a-plate black-tie fundraiser honoring Ruby Keeler and Cyd Charisse Jan. 11. Next day, Bono hosted a reception for festival guests and press at his Palm Springs home.
Unexpected programming of “The Grifters,” which came in for a single “sneak preview” showing at the last minute, was sold out.
Fest, which had struggled this year for sufficient corporate sponsorship, “came very close to not happening,” Pregnolato told the Plaza Theater audience before the closing screening, “La Chateau De Ma Mere.” He urged them to “write the council to make sure it happens again.”
Pregnolato said German outfit Capella Films & JG Financial had made a generous contribution that enabled the fest to continue. American Airlines also was a major sponsor. Though Pregnolato would not give budget specifics, sources said the fest operated on approximately $700,000 in cash and services.