Newport Beach Film Festival casts Costa Mesa

The April 28 to May 5 Newport Beach Film Festival promises to be the biggest in the event's 12-year history, drawing some 400 films from 47 countries.

And because of construction in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa will for the first time play a leading role.

Due to the remodeling of Edwards Island Cinemas, about 70% to 80% of the festival's screenings will take place at the Starlight Triangle Square Cinemas, Todd Quartararo, the festival co-founder, said Thursday.

"It's still the same great program and the same great offering of 400-plus films," Quartararo said, adding that more of the festival's post-events will be at Fashion Island and Lido Village to keep the focus on Newport Beach.

Though screenings have taken place at Regency South Coast Village Theatres across Costa Mesa city limits in Santa Ana, this will be the first time Costa Mesa theaters participate in earnest.

In addition to Triangle Square, screenings will also be at Edwards Big Newport Cinemas, the Regency Lido Theatre and Sage Hill School in Newport Coast.

The world premier of "East Fifth Bliss," a comedy starring Michael C. Hall, Lucy Liu, Peter Fonda, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Brad William Henke and Sarah Shahi, will serve as the opening night premiere at the 1,000-seat Big Newport. In the film, Hall plays an aimless man in his mid-30s with dreams of traveling but not job to make it happen.

The festival's Opening Night Gala will be staged at Fashion Island, as it was last year, in the Bloomingdale's courtyard.

The festival will close, perhaps aptly because of the title, on May 5 with "A Beginner's Guide to Endings," starring Harvey Keitel, Scott Caan and J.K. Simmons, at the Lido. The film about a man who is more interested in gambling than fatherhood premiered in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. The screening will be followed by the closing night gala at Lido Village.

There are plans to transform sections of Lido Village into a retail destination tied to the festival with temporary stores. Organizers hope to provide a boost to a retail area that has struggled.

Tickets go on sale Friday, when the entire lineup will be announced online. Organizers said their event is growing in stature, mixing a desirable location, good hotels and shopping, and proximity to Hollywood.

Many of the films on this year's slate could qualify as premieres at many of the world's film festivals, said Gregg Schwenk, festival executive officer and executive director.

"As far as the line-up reflecting the community, we truly have an incredibly strong line-up of films," he said.

Though certainly a theme in past years, this year will also be the first time that a formal music series will be added to the program, Quartararo said.

Six films were chosen from "an incredible inventory," Quartararo said.

Documentaries follow the stories of music notables, such as the Beatles, "Peanuts" composer Vince Guaraldi and punk-rock vocalist Marian Anderson of the Insaints.

The popular action sports series will continue. There will also be a strong international showing, including a series tied to Japan O.C., and spotlights on Asian, Latino, Swedish, French, Irish and Italian films.

More than 51,000 people attended the festival last year with 2,500 booked hotel nights within the city of Newport Beach, Erik Forssell, festival director of programming, confirmed Thursday.

About the same number of moviegoers are expected this year, Quartararo said.

While Quartararo said that the festival will return to the Edward Island Cinemas next year as its main venue, he and the other organizers will continue to consider venues outside the city, including Triangle Square, as the festival grows.

"It's a luxury problem," Quartararo said. "The festival has grown so large that that it has utilized all available venues in Newport Beach. As we continue to grow, we will consider options outside the city limits, but the focus will remain on our home-base, which is Newport Beach."

There are no formal economic impact analysis for this year's festival, but it is believed that it will be a boon to shops, restaurants and hotels.

The average age of festival attendees in the past was 34 with a median household income of $125,000, organizers said.

"There is a significant impact on our community," Quartararo said, "especially with the way our economy is right now."

Tickets start at $12 and $10 for senior and students. To buy tickets and to view the complete festival line-up, visit www.

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