Movie News & Reviews

SLO Film Festival sees big boost in ticket sales, attendance

Attendance, ticket sales and festival pass sales at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival hit a high this spring.

About 11,500 people attended the 2017 festival, which celebrated its 23rd year in March, festival director Wendy Eidson said, up 18 percent from 9,750 in 2016. About 30 percent of those festivalgoers came from out of the area, while the rest came from San Luis Obispo County.

Total ticket sales soared 38 percent to $68,741 in March, compared to $49,775 last year.

Meanwhile, festival pass sales totaled $50,222, an impressive 42 percent increase from $35,140 in 2016.

“People are realizing their chances of getting into a movie are much less now if they don’t have a pass and (thus) get priority seating,” Eidson said.

Ticket and pass sales in 2017 grossed $118,963 overall, a 40 percent boost from last year’s $84,895 take.

Meanwhile, revenue from entry fees shot up a whopping 80 percent to $28,720, compared to $15,928 in 2016. Filmmakers submitted more than 1,000 films, Eidson said, with 72 selected for competition.

Although Eidson remains the festival’s only full-time employee, she was aided by four part-timers, including two new hires. Chris Aho came aboard as development director, and Catherine Jaeger was hired to handle public relations.

This year’s festival, which featured movie screenings, red-carpet events and more at venues in Morro Bay, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, had its share of celebrities — some with Central Coast ties.

“No Country for Old Men” actor Josh Brolin, who grew up in the Templeton area and has a ranch there, received the King Vidor Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at a star-studded awards ceremony at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. It included appearances by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz and Oscar winner and past King Vidor honoree Jeff Bridges.

Filmmaker Todd Fisher, who lives part time in Creston, was on hand for two events.

At the Fremont, he did a question-and-answer session with Variety editor Jenelle Riley before a screening of “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds,” a documentary about his late sister and mother. Todd Fisher also introduced a screening of movie musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” at a new festival venue, the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo.

Movie critic and author Leonard Maltin, recipient of this year’s Spotlight Award, helped hand out filmmaker awards on the final day of the festival.

Other popular events included the world premiere of the horse-training documentary “Down the Fence” and a Mardi Gras-themed, foodie-focused opening-night gala centered on “Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table.” French Stewart of “3rd Rock from the Sun” sat down with past Spotlight Festival award winner Leslie Iwerks to chat about her documentary about New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace.

Plans are underway for next year’s San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, recently named one of MovieMaker magazine’s “50 Top Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.” (It also made the list in 2014 and 2016.) For more information about the festival, running March 13-18, 2018, visit