Celebrity appearances and red-carpet events equaled a banner year for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, which saw record attendance and ticket sales this spring.
The festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary March 5 through 9 at venues throughout San Luis Obispo County, drew 8,500 people this year, 12.5 percent more than in 2013, said Wendy Eidson, the festival’s artistic and marketing director.
About a quarter of attendees came from outside San Luis Obispo County, she added.
Ticket and pass sales were also up this year — grossing $81,227, compared with $61,382 the previous spring, Eidson said.
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According to Eidson, a post-festival survey found that festivalgoers pumped dollars into the Central Coast economy as well, with 82 percent of attendees eating one to six meals in county restaurants and 35 percent eating two to three meals locally. On average, out-of-towners stayed two nights at local hotels, the survey found.
Many filmgoers went shopping between screenings, Eidson added.
About 30 percent of audience members spent $50 to $500 at county stores and 80 percent of filmmakers dropped $100 to $2,000 at local retailers and restaurants, survey results showed.
Eidson attributed strong attendance and ticket sales in part to nearly sold-out appearances by “Batman” star Adam West and Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, as well as a packed Surf Nite in SLO event featuring the band Honk and seminal surf film “Five Summer Stories.”
Bridges was the recipient of this year’s King Vidor Career Achievement Award, which honors excellence in filmmaking.
Eidson said the festival’s screening series “SLO County on the Silver Screen,” which ran August through February, also helped boost the event’s profile.
In its spring 2014 issue, which hit newsstands Tuesday, MovieMaker magazine lists the San Luis Obispo festival as one of “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”
The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival will next be held March 11 through 15, 2015. For more information, call 546-3456 or visit http://slofilmfest.org.