Fest charged up

Amex commits to Tribeca

NEW YORK — American Express has become the founding sponsor of the Tribeca Film Festival via a multiyear, multimillion-dollar commitment to the fest, which debuts May 8-12 in lower Manhattan.

Announcement was delivered Thursday at City Hall by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, flanked by Tribeca festival partners Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, along with American Express chairman-CEO Kenneth Chenault.

“This is a particularly happy morning,” Bloomberg said. “You can’t have a better marriage than the one you have here.”

Chenault added: “The festival will help make downtown the place to be this summer and will be the first in a series of events, large and small, that American Express will help bring to lower Manhattan.”

Event happens in the same general time period when American Express will be moving its employees back to the lower Manhattan HQ from which they had been forced to move due to Sept. 11.

Rosenthal unveiled several new fest features, including a Rock and Comedy Concert, to be held in Battery Park; a two-day family program, which will include an all-day carnival, film screenings, picnics and other entertainment; and a special screening with cast and filmmakers of “About a Boy,” starring Hugh Grant and Toni Collette. Fest’s lineup will be announced shortly after the Oscars.

Event also will include Martin Scorsese presenting five newly restored classic films, including “Viva Zapata” and “The Hired Hand.” Scorsese will also announce his top 10 films set in New York.

Jury for docs includes Isaac Mizrahi, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Holbrook, Nancy Burski, Sheila Nevins, Fred Wiseman and Sam Pollard. Feature jury includes Barry Levinson, Frances McDormand, Kevin Spacey and Janet Maslin. The shorts jury consists of Julian Schnabel, Helen Hunt, Gary Ross, Warrington Hudlin and Mary Schmidt Campbell.

Outside of the selected pics, fest will feature daylong panel talks and seminars to provide opportunities for discussion and education about the entertainment biz.

Programming will include films celebrating New York. “In addition to being a showcase for the best in independent film,” Bloomberg said, “the Tribeca Film Festival will also be a celebration of the cultural vitality and strength of our city.”

Bloomberg estimated that the fest will attract 30,000 visitors to lower Manhattan and assist in revitalization efforts.

De Niro added: “This is exactly what Tribeca and the city needs right now. I want to personally thank Ken Chenault and American Express for this tremendous show of support — not just for our film festival, but for Tribeca and downtown as a whole.”

Fest, announced in December, had been a longtime dream project of Tribeca Films partners Rosenthal and De Niro.

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