By NATHAN LERNER
Traditionally, the Philadelphia Film Festival was an annual rite of spring. In 2001, the Philadelphia Film Society took over as organizers of the event. In 2009, they moved the cinematic smorgasbord to the fall.
This left a gaping void for cinephiles, who had grown accustomed to indulging their passion for film during the spring. Eager to accommodate their fan base, the Philadelphia Film Society commenced various smaller scale springtime events, designed to augment their principal festival in the fall.
The Philadelphia Film Society produced the Philadelphia Film Festival Spring Preview in 2010, a precursor for this year’s event. Subsequently, during the past two years, the Philadelphia Film Society partnered with radio station, WXPN, and held a springtime festival. The program focused exclusively on films with a music theme and was held principally at the Annenberg Center on the University of Pennsylvania campus.
This year, the Philadelphia Film Society will inaugurate a Spring Film Showcase. Encompassing 17 film premieres, the week-long affair will be held between Friday, April 11 and Thursday, April 17. These new films will be augmented by a retrospective, consisting of eight previously released films by Alfonso Cuarón, the acclaimed director/co-screenwriter/co-producer of “Gravity.” All of these films will be shown at the PFS Theater at the Roxy in downtown Philadelphia.
I spoke by telephone to Andrew Greenblatt, the executive director of the Philadelphia Film Society. The Ambler native clarified, “The Spring Showcase is not a replacement for the XPN Music Film Festival, an event we love. We are currently working with XPN on what future iterations of the event will look like.” According to Greenblatt, “Both of us wanted it to include more live performance alongside films. We’re currently investigating how to better accomplish that.”
Greenblatt said, “The Spring Showcase allows us to bring to Philadelphia some of the films that the programming team has seen recently in Sundance, SXSW and other festivals. We wanted to spotlight these films in a festival setting. However, we wouldn’t be able to include them in our fall festival since the films are slated for release prior to October. Launching the Spring Showcase gave us a new outlet in which we could feature these fantastic films.”
Regarding the focus on Alfonso Cuarón, Greenblatt advised, “We’re thrilled to be able to put a spotlight on his incredibly creative and visually stunning body of work, honoring him just after his groundbreaking win for the 2013 Oscar for Best Director.”
The PFS Theater at the Roxy is the home base for the Philadelphia Film Society. Following extensive renovation, it re-opened to the public back in December. Greenblatt discussed the use of the Roxy Theater for the Spring Preview, “Having the PFS Theater at the Roxy open gave us the opportunity to produce the Spring Showcase more simply, hosting the entire event at our venue.” He added, “We hope that the excitement of the Spring Showcase will help bring new patrons to the theater. We have a strong loyal following amongst festival attendees. We’re hoping that they will also attend the Spring Showcase and enjoy our new venue, then become regular visitors as we continue to feature studio films, independent films and retrospectives all year round!”
Greenblatt acknowledged the challenges of mounting this latest venture. “It’s always a bit tricky to produce a new event. With a new event such as the Spring Showcase, we need to work even harder to get the word out. “
Greenblatt speculated, “I think that most, if not all, of the films will end up being released. However, some will likely not be theatrical releases.” Referring to these latter films, he suggested, “The Spring Showcase will offer the only opportunity to see some of these films theatrically.” Greenblatt concluded, “Of the films that will be released theatrically, this provides the opportunity to see them well ahead of their release, which is always a fun thing.”
Nathan Lerner, the Director of Davenport Communications, sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.