Rita Moreno among 2016 Newport Beach Film Festival honorees

Actress and singer Rita Moreno, shown at the TV Land Icon Awards on April 10, will receive a Legends Award at this month's Newport Beach Film Festival.
(Rich Fury / Invision/AP)

Rita Moreno has an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy to her name, which might lead one to believe that another trophy might feel like old news to the “West Side Story” actress.

Well, guess again.

Moreno, who stars in the new road-trip comedy “Remember Me,” felt thrilled when she heard that the Newport Beach Film Festival had chosen her as one of two recipients of its Legends Award. This month, the 84-year-old will join songwriter Burt Bacharach in accepting the awards at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach.

“Any day that someone wants to honor me with a lifetime achievement award, I am honored,” Moreno said by phone Wednesday. “I’m certainly not blasé about these things.”

As for where the award will be kept in her home? “You know, I’m on my second shelf at this point,” she said.

The Legends Award may not mark a first for a podium veteran like Moreno, but it marks a new phase for the Newport Beach Film Festival, which celebrates its 17th go-round this month. This year and last, the festival has held an awards ceremony in London, bestowing prizes for outstanding achievements in global cinema.

That event, held before the BAFTA awards in partnership with Visit Newport Beach, American Airlines and the British entertainment-store chain HMV, gave laurels to “The Imitation Game” in 2015 and “Brooklyn” this February.

Gregg Schwenk, the festival’s co-founder and chief executive, decided it was time that Newport held a ceremony in its own neighborhood.

In the Newport Honors ceremony April 23, the festival will honor Bacharach and Moreno and bestow an Outstanding Achievement in Screenwriting award on “Beauty and the Beast” scribe Linda Woolverton. In partnership with Variety magazine, Schwenk’s team also will recognize 10 Cinematographers to Watch.

“When we’ve been speaking with all of our honorees, one thing we want to convey is that Newport Beach is a luxurious place, but it’s also very laid back,” Schwenk said. “And that will be the tenor of our honors program. It’s not going to be long on heavy production numbers. It’s really to honor and recognize the achievements of the individuals we have in Newport Beach that evening.”


International mix

As for those achievements, they won’t simply be nostalgic ones. “Remember Me,” which stars Moreno as a grandmother seeking a home after her husband’s death, will screen April 23 at the Triangle in Costa Mesa.

The childhood drama “Po,” for which Bacharach composed the music, can be seen that day at the same theater.

More than 400 films from more than 50 countries will be shown at this year’s festival, which advertises itself as a Newport Beach event but also branches out to nearby Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. Seven theaters in all will screen films, ranging from big-budget features to local student-made shorts, from Thursday to April 28.

Ask a movie buff about the top tier of annual festivals and a few established names will likely come up: Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and South by Southwest. Newport Beach may not rank among those in terms of industry clout, though it served as an important harbinger at least once: “Crash,” the movie that ended up taking the 2005 Best Picture Oscar, had its U.S. premiere at Newport.

Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety, said a festival like Newport exists primarily to honor the craft of filmmaking, regardless of whether any of its entries go on to box-office glory. To him, that’s a strength more than a weakness.

“It’s really about the art, not the business,” Gaydos said. “I would say a festival like Newport is important to film art, primarily. Secondarily, it’s of importance to the filmmakers.”

This year’s festival will kick off Thursday with David Anderson’s “After the Reality,” a character study of two adult siblings who reunite after their father’s death. It will screen at Edwards Big Newport 6 at Fashion Island. A gala will take place afterward, with a hosted bar and samples from 25 Orange County restaurants.

The 1966 Howard Hawks-directed Western “El Dorado” will continue the longtime tradition of honoring onetime Newport Beach resident John Wayne on April 23 at the Island Cinema at Fashion Island.

For the seventh year in a row, Don Hahn and Dave Bossert will host “Disney Rarities,” a night of oddities and long-unseen artifacts from the studio’s vaults, on April 26 at the Regency South Coast Village in Santa Ana.


Those shady animals

History is often a prominent theme at the Newport Beach Film Festival, which devotes part of its program every year to anniversary film screenings. This year, the festival will celebrate a film that some may not believe is now a decade and a half old. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” which began Peter Jackson’s blockbuster Tolkien trilogy in 2001, will screen April 24 at the Santa Ana theater.

In addition, the 1981 Disney animated classic “The Fox and the Hound” will get a 35th-anniversary screening April 23 at the Regency South Coast Village. Moviegoers who saw the studio’s current animated hit “Zootopia” may be forgiven for wondering if the Newport Beach organizers scheduled it for topical reasons. “Fox,” like “Zootopia,” uses animal characters in a parable about prejudice and racial discrimination.

Schwenk, however, said his team didn’t have recent headlines in mind when they arranged the revival screening.

“‘I wish we could claim that,” he said. “But ‘The Fox and the Hound’ happens to be a personal favorite of a lot of our staff. So when they heard it was the anniversary, they said, ‘We’ve got to do this!’ ”



What: Newport Beach Film Festival

Where: Seven theaters in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana

When: Thursday through April 28

Cost: $15 general admission for most film screenings; $12 for students, senior citizens and military; some screenings are $5 general admission. Call or check the website for prices for other special events and parties.

Information: (949) 253-2880 or