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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bay Area Blockbuster: SF Film Society Plans Expansion as Film Arts Foundation Closes Its Doors

In a seismic shift within the Bay Area film community, the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), which organizes the annual San Francisco International Film Fesival -- the oldest fest in the United States -- today unveiled a major expansion in the wake of the simultaneous announcement of the closure of the city's 32 year old Film Arts Foundation. The latest non-profit film organization to face fatal financial challenges, Film Arts recently sold its interest in the local 9th Street building it shared with a number of festivals and arts organizations, paying down its debts in the process and paving the way for a deal with the Film Society. "Film Arts Foundation has essentially gone under," SFFS executive director Graham Leggat explained to indieWIRE late Friday, previewing today's announcement. "We managed to catch the ball before it hit the ground."

Following in the footsteps of the move this year by the Tribeca Film Institute in acquiring Renew Media, a recent re-branding of the Atlanta Film Festival and its year-round programing via the Image Film and Video Center, and the growing bond between Film Independent and its annual Los Angeles Film Festival -- not to mention the dynamic relationship between the Sundance Institute and its annual Sundance Film Festival -- the San Francisco Film Society announcement underscores the importance of film festivals as anchor events for bigger film organizations.

From the absorption of the mini-majors to the question mark hanging over indie distribution, the entire indie side of the film world is in transition. These shifts are significant and wide ranging enough that we're surprised it hasn't yet spawned its own name.

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