Cinetopia Film Festival targets biggest year yet
The festival, now in its fifth year, shoots to sell around 30,000 tickets this year, up from 20K a year ago
The Cinetopia International Film Festival has exploded since debuting in 2012. That first year, the fest showed 35 films over four days in downtown Ann Arbor. Hoping to sell around 2,500 tickets, the fest instead doubled that figure.
It has grown every year since. Now a 10-day event spread out across 11 venues in four cities, organizers expect to sell 30,000 tickets to this year’s 100-plus screenings, up from 20,000 tickets last year.
“We’re very happy with the growth so far,” says Russ Collins, executive director of Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater and Cinetopia’s founder. “We knew we needed to have attendance of 20-60,000 to be robust. With less than 20,000, you’re not sustainable. We want this festival to grow organically to where the community wants us to go, and we’re pointing in the right direction.”
Film festivals can take around 10 years to stabilize and find their footing, Collins says, adding Cinetopia is well on its way to making its mark.
This year’s fest, which kicks off Friday and runs through June 12, will host 55 films from across the cinematic spectrum — comedies, dramas, documentaries and family films. There are screenings of classics (“Bambi”), films coming soon to theaters (“Captain Fantastic”), concert films (“Iggy Pop Live in Basel 2015”), shorts programs and selections of world cinema, including the Arab American National Museum Arab Film Festival.
Organizers said they built the program from screenings at other film fests around the world, including Cannes, Sundance, South by Southwest and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, aiming to make Cinetopia a platter of the best of the other fests.
This year’s program was whittled down from an initial list of some 450 titles.
“Fortunately, there are a lot of great movies out there,” says Elliot Wilhelm, director of the Detroit Film Theatre and another Cinetopia organizer. He’s particularly excited about showing “De Palma,” Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s documentary about filmmaker Brian De Palma (“Scarface,” “Body Double”), which screens Sunday at the Detroit Film Theatre. While watching the film at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Wilhelm says,“I had the time of my life.”
Wilhelm says the best way to experience Cinetopia — or any film festival, for that matter — is to be open to the experience. Pick a film you want to see that is in some way connected to you — be it through an actor whose work you enjoy or a theme or setting you can relate to — and start there, “and then do the dartboard thing,” he says. “Choose something at random. Find a movie that is not crowded that you can walk into.” You might wonder if everybody else is at something better, “And there’s a really good chance you’re wrong,” he says.
As Cinetopia continues to grow, Collins sees it as a compliment to another fine arts festival that has taken root in Detroit.
“The idea would be to be considered as one of those very important Detroit festivals, like the Jazz Festival,” Collins says. It’s one of the reasons the fest is programmed at the beginning of the summer, as the Jazz Festival closes the season on Labor Day weekend.
“Jazz and film are international art forms with fundamentally American aesthetics,” says Collins. “There’s a nice symmetry there.”
Cinetopia International Film Festival
Venues in Detroit, Dearborn, Bloomfield Township and Ann Arbor
cinetopiafestival.org or (734) 668-8397