L.A. Fest dresses up

'Prada' bows in Westwood

The Los Angeles Film Festival isn’t just moving from Hollywood to Westwood — for the first time ever, it is opening with a studio pic, “The Devil Wears Prada,” instead of an indie title.

Fest runs June 22-July 2.

Since taking over the event five years ago, Film Independent has been trying to separate from the pack and build an internationally recognizable film festival in a city that is the epicenter of the movie biz, but lacks a Sundance, Toronto or Cannes.

That means including studio films if they are the right fit.

“We don’t want it to be a niche festival,” said Dawn Hudson, exec director of Film Independent, which also hosts the Independent Spirit Awards.

In another change for the festival, the Los Angeles Times has come aboard as a presenting sponsor, a partnership that’s worth millions of dollars in advertising and branding.

This year’s fest line-up includes more than 263 films and musicvideos in 16 different sections. Eight features will compete for the $50,000 narrative prize, while 11 docus will compete for a $50,000 pot.

Fox’s “Prada,” starring Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci, screens on June 22, marking the pic’s L.A. preem. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s Sundance prize winner “Quinceanera” has been chosen as the fest’s centerpiece premiere, while “Little Miss Sunshine,” which also preemed at Sundance, has been tapped as the closing night film.

Festival boasts a number of world preems, including Mike Ott’s “Analog Days,” Sarah Kelly’s “The Lather Effect” and Chris Chan Lee’s “Undoing,” as well as U.S. preems of international films, such as Zhang Ming’s “Before Born” and Iranian filmmaker Ali Zamani Esmati’s “Narrow Alleys.”

Docus preeming during the fest include James Moll’s “Inheritance” and Alan Berg’s “A Place to Dance.”

Bill Couturie’s docu “Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs and Blockbusters,” exec produced by Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart and president-publisher Charlie Koones, will play in the special screenings and series category.

In the sneak peek category, auds can see docu “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” ThinkFilm’s feature “Half Nelson” and Lionsgate’s horror pic “Right at Your Door.”

There also will be a handful of outdoor screenings at the Ford Amphitheater, including another Lionsgate horror title, “The Descent,” and Columbia’s “Monster House.”

“We want to embrace the full spectrum of films,” said fest director Rich Raddon.

The relocation to Westwood Village will allow the festival to grow, as well as offer festgoers a centralized location. Before, screenings and events were held in locations across Hollywood.

Westwood venues include the Mann Village, the Landmark Regent the AMC Avco Center and Mann Festival theaters as well as theaters on the UCLA campus, the Geffen Playhouse, Italian Cultural Institute and the Hammer Museum.

As previously announced, George Lucas will serve as the guest director. He’ll host a two-day filmmaker retreat at his Skywalker Ranch, as well as program a sidebar of films that have inspired his work.

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