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Newport-Mesa poised to reap big dollars from Film Festival

With some events and the opening- and closing-night films already sold out as of Wednesday, a booming 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) may bring as much as $10 million to the city’s coffers.

As a low estimate, Visit Newport Beach Inc. President and Executive Officer Gary Sherwin predicted that that the eight-day showcase of films would generate a minimum figure falling between $5 million and $10 million.

“Our guess is that the direct economic impact — and, again, this includes people staying at hotels, eating at restaurants, party rentals, banquets and catering — the real economic impact is going to be a significantly larger number,” Sherwin said.

Every two years, film festival organizers partner with UC Irvine to conduct a survey of festival participants. Insight gleaned from past studies include both economic and demographic factors.


The newest study will come out this year after the festival closes May 3. The Daily Pilot is a sponsor in the festival.

In addition to the opening-night film, “Jewtopia,” and closing-night film, “Shanghai Calling,” both being sold out, other films have already sold out as well, said festival co-founder Todd Quartararo.

Festival organizers added a third screening to the documentary “Behind the Orange Curtain” — a film about prescription drug abuse — due to the popularity of pre-ticket sales, Quartararo said.

“We advise people to buy their tickets online ahead of time so that everyone can get in to see the show that they want to see,” Quartararo said.


With about 450 films and the addition of two venues, the 13th annual festival shows promise of being the largest to date.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will see an increase in ticket sales,” Quartararo said of exceeding last year’s record-breaking attendance of 52,000.

Among the local businesses that may see the biggest increases in traffic are those at Fashion Island. Festival organizers have paired with retailers — including Z Gallerie, Lucky Brand, 7 For All Mankind and Athleta — for many of the festival’s spotlight screenings and post-events.

“NBFF visitors, Fashion Island customers and Lucky Brand fans share a passion for creative expression, outstanding design and enjoy seeking out unique experiences,” said Melissa Cabot, Lucky Brand vice president of brand marketing.

“On a purely statistical level, the majority of our customers are successful women living in California, which we associate strongly with the customer demographic of NBFF and Fashion Island,” she added.

Newport Beach hotels have seen a booking increase of about 5% for the duration of the festival, Sherwin said.

“The good news is that people come from a long distance and others come from close-by,” said Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President Richard Luehrs. “And all of it goes to put Newport Beach in very positive and innovative light. I will probably go to half a dozen films myself.”

About 20% of festival attendees come from outside of Orange County, said festival co-founder Gregg Schwenk.


That number is something that Visit Newport is working hard to increase, Sherwin said.

A package deal with the Fairmont hotel in Newport Beach, which included a room and two tickets to a general screening, were around $250 per night. That deal sold out within a few days, Sherwin said.

“Visit Newport Beach is all about nurturing the Newport Beach brand and what people see us as,” Sherwin said. "...The film festival plays beautifully into that brand reinforcement — the aspiration, the upscale, sophisticated culture that is Newport Beach. It’s one thing to say it and another to demonstrate it; that’s what the Newport Beach Film Festival does.”

Twitter: @speters01