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Film series to public: If you love me, prove it

Dwindling sponsors, skyrocketing costs and increased competition from movie theaters in town has pitched one of Park City cherished institutions into the red even as attendance numbers are up so far this year.

The Park City Film Series, started 15 years ago, has had to dig deep into its rainy day coffers to sustain itself through the winter, and, at its current rate, funds will dry up by the end of the 2008-2009 season in May, according to series director Frank Normile.

"All in all we’re well loved," Normile said. "But money is tight in town."

Donations, accepted online at http://www.parkcityfilmseries.com, will help keep films rolling, he said.

The series spotlights independent films, documentaries and Sundance picks that locals would not otherwise see on the big screen.

The films are weekend favorites for those who don’t want to bust the bank. Ticket prices have increased just 50 cents in 10 years, to $7 for adult tickets, and concessions remain reasonably priced. "Our prices are pretty rock bottom," Normile said. "We don’t kill you on the concessions and I don’t like to raise ticket prices. We like to hold the line."

Admission is free to about one in five films, which are shown at the Jim Santy Auditorium at Park City Library.

The affordability of the series stands in contrast to jacked-up booking fees and royalties. It costs organizers between $1,200 and $1,500 to screen a movie in Park City, even if it’s free to the public. Multiply that by about 120 screenings, many of them free, and an idea of the annual cost of operation emerges.

Still, grants have helped buoy the series. Last year, the film series received about $25,000 in grants from Summit County and other entities.

Attendance, up about 14 percent from last year, is another bright sign for the organization that screenings films on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The locals showcase held Wednesday attracted more than 300 people. "In hard times, we are the best deal in the city, the county even," he said.

The film series doesn’t show blockbusters that draw huge crowds, and probably never will. "I have a graying audience that’s not being replaced," he said. "But we’re not going to change our M.O. because showing blockbusters isn’t our mission." Often, board members want to show comedies because they are more likely to draw crowds, but balk at the crass fare showing at megaplexes.

Worst for the film series is when local theaters stray from blockbusters and devote weekend runs to some of the same films on the nonprofit’s docket. "Redstone has really been a thorn in our side," Normile said.

Besides more competition for the high-brow audience, the series may be the first to feel the brunt of video rentals and online viewers. "I used to say that people weren’t going to theaters, that theater was a dying art," said board member Destiny Grose, "Now the same thing is happening with movies."

The decline is unfortunate because of the social aspect of going to a movie. "The Park City Film Series is a place where everybody knows somebody," Grose said. "Your friends and neighbors are in the audience. It is community spirited."

Grose, who helps selects films for the series, said she is excited about every selection on the calendar. Two of the films shown in the series, "Trouble in the Water" and "Frozen River" were favorites at the 2008 Sundance festival. "We’re one of the few venues in town that give people a chance to see Sundance movies after the festival," she said.

Info box:

How to give:

Mail checks to:

Park City Film Series

P.O. Box 2092

Park City, Utah

Or visit: http://www.parkcityfilmseries.com


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