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L.A. Film Festival moves to crowded fall festival season for 2018

L.A. Film Festival moves to crowded fall festival season for 2018
"The Book of Henry" director Colin Trevorrow, left, on the red carpet at the opening of the L.A. Film Festival at the ArcLight in Culver City on June 14. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In a move that could drastically impact the film festival landscape in the city, the L.A. Film Festival will move out of its long-standing summer slot and next take place from Sept. 20-28, 2018.

"Everyone wants the film festival taking place in the heart of the film business to be strong, myself included, and this move is one big step in that direction," said Jennifer Cochis, director of the L.A. Film Festival, in an email.

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"Repositioning the festival will allow it to be of better service to audiences, filmmakers, and the industry," Cochis added. "The summer is an increasingly challenging time for artist-driven films, and when we looked at the calendar to see what other window we could occupy, we all felt the fall was where we belonged."

“Repositioning the festival will allow it to be of better service to audiences, filmmakers, and the industry... We all felt the fall was where we belonged.


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Within the world of film festivals, the two essential factors are geographic location and position on the calendar. Festival organizers fight hard for high-profile premieres and the splashy red carpets that can go with them. And while that's not the only metric of a festival's success, it is the most apparent for audiences and media alike.

The L.A. Film Festival is produced by Film Independent, the L.A.-based nonprofit arts organization that among its other programs produces the Spirit Awards. Whether any movies decide to play at the festival in relation to awards-season aspirations is another possible piece of the puzzle regarding the change in dates.

The move puts the LAFF in more direct competition with the local AFI Fest. This year's upcoming AFI Fest will take place from Nov. 9-16 and will presumably be in essentially the same spot on the calendar next year.

"There are many films that could use additional love, particularly in Los Angeles, that premiere well in advance of AFI," said Cochis. "Additionally, L.A. Film Festival will continue to be the exhibition arm of Film Independent, playing exciting new work by underrepresented voices. I think the two festivals will continue to co-exist and mutually benefit each other."

Responding to the idea of the LAFF moving to the fall, an AFI spokesperson said, "The American Film Institute celebrates all activities that shine a proper light on storytellers and their stories."

In its summer position — this year's festival ran from June 14-22 — the LAFF was in a difficult place on the calendar for an inventory of films to program. The festival came after the South by Southwest and Tribeca Film festivals in the spring and presumably struggled to persuade filmmakers it was worthwhile to wait an additional two to three months to debut their work.

By moving to a fall position, after the powerhouse trio of fests at Venice, Telluride and Toronto, which premiere many of the season's marquee titles, the LAFF may open up a new stream of possibilities to bring to local audiences.

Among the awards season hopefuls opening in Los Angeles in the window between this year's Toronto and AFI festivals are "Battle of the Sexes," "Victoria and Abdul," "The Florida Project," "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)," "The Killing of a Sacred Deer," "Wonderstruck," "Novitiate," "The Square" and "Lady Bird."

As well, LAFF may now theoretically compete with the venerated New York Film Festival, which this year opened on Sept. 28 and has in recent years been expanding its once tightly contained programming while maintaining the feel of an exclusive boutique event.

The genre-oriented Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, and Beyond Fest in Los Angeles also already occupy the same post-Toronto, pre-AFI Fest window as the new LAFF date and could compete for certain titles.

"The reality is, there are more films that get made every year than there are spaces in film festivals," said LAFF's Cochis. "And frankly, I'm not hung up on who plays something first, I'm much more excited by being able to support storytellers in a way that is meaningful for their films. Also, I'm thinking of film lovers in L.A. who aren't able to travel the world going to film festivals who will get to see these amazing films a few Metro stops away."

As part of the same announcement, the festival also announced a multi-year partnership with ArcLight Cinemas. The LAFF will continue to use the ArcLight location in Culver City as its main venue, as it has done for the past two years.

Also announced was that withoutabox.com, which is owned and operated by imdb.com, in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com, will be the festival's exclusive submission platform. Submissions can be made beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

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