Los Angeles Film Festival is bolting Westwood for downtown

In a move that could bring millions of dollars in consumer spending to downtown, the Los Angeles Film Festival announced Thursday that it was leaving Westwood Village and bringing its June festival to L.A. Live and other downtown venues.

Now the real challenge is getting traffic-phobic industry types to come east of Robertson.

For the last four years, LAFF has been centered near UCLA, but festival organizers worried that with prominent Westwood theaters closing down they would struggle to accommodate the festival’s 85,000 attendees and more than 200 features, shorts and music videos.

“We’re excited about what this means for our audience and its expansion,” said Rebecca Yeldham, the festival’s director. Festival organizers toured several potential venues and attended the downtown premiere of Sony’s “This Is It” and the new L.A. Live location for this year’s Independent Spirit Awards (presented by LAFF producer Film Independent) before finalizing their decision.

“We got really excited about what was represented there,” Yeldham said.

In addition to placing its hub at L.A. Live, the festival intends to use the new Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14, the REDCAT theater at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the historic Orpheum and Million Dollar theaters on Broadway.

The festival, which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, will continue to hold evening screenings at Hollywood’s John Anson Ford Amphitheatre.

The move to downtown, part of a three-year commitment, allows the festival to program some of its high-profile screenings into some of Southern California’s biggest theatrical venues, including the Nokia Theatre, which can seat more than 7,000.

Because so many Hollywood types consider downtown as distant as the moon, programming director David Ansen said the festival will “stagger the screening times, keeping the Westside audience in mind.”

In its recent history, the festival has mixed big-budget studio premieres -- " Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Public Enemies” -- with an eclectic mix of domestic and international independent productions, both narrative and nonfiction works.

Last year’s festival showcased a number of films that went on to broader acclaim, including the political satire “In the Loop,” which was nominated for an adapted screenplay Oscar. This year’s festival runs June 17 to June 27; the schedule will be announced in early May.

LAFF will drive significantly less hotel and entertaining expenses than the much bigger Sundance Film Festival, which generated an economic impact of $92.1 million last year, according to a study conducted by the University of Utah. But it still could have a material impact on the local economy, said Jack Kyser, the founding economist of the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

“It could easily jump into the millions of dollars of overall economic impact,” Kyser said of the festival’s move, noting that in addition to direct spending festival guests will pay parking, lodging and sales taxes. “And it will make more people familiar with downtown Los Angeles.”