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SLO film festival sees jump in ticket sales for 2015 event

Film director Randal Kleiser, left, writer-producer of the surfing classic "North Shore," with actor Gary Busey ("The Buddy Holly Story"), right, present the Spotlight Award to John Milius ("Conan the Barbarian," "Red Dawn"), during Surf Nite in SLO at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival on Thursday at the Fremont Theatre. Milius wrote and directed the classic surf movie "Big Wednesday."
Film director Randal Kleiser, left, writer-producer of the surfing classic "North Shore," with actor Gary Busey ("The Buddy Holly Story"), right, present the Spotlight Award to John Milius ("Conan the Barbarian," "Red Dawn"), during Surf Nite in SLO at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival on Thursday at the Fremont Theatre. Milius wrote and directed the classic surf movie "Big Wednesday." jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival saw a modest bump in attendance and a big boost in ticket sales this spring.

The festival, which celebrated its 21st year March 10 through 15 at venues throughout San Luis Obispo County, attracted 8,750 people this year, up nearly 3 percent from 8,500 in 2014, according to festival director Wendy Eidson.

Eidson said 25 percent to 30 percent of festival attendees came from outside the county, 3 percent more than last year.

Ticket and pass sales shot up 32.6 percent this spring — grossing $110,978, compared with $83,659 the previous year, she said.

One of the draws at this year’s festival was a sold-out screening of “Citizen Kane” at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

The 10th annual Surf Nite in SLO event also proved popular.

Actors Gary Busey and William Katt and filmmaker Greg MacGillivray were among the celebrities who gathered at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo to pay tribute to “Big Wednesday” writer-director John Milius, who received the festival’s Spotlight Award.

On a separate night, "The Last Picture Show" star Timothy Bottoms showed up at the Fremont to honor the film’s Oscar-nominated writer-director. Peter Bogdanovich received the festival’s King Vidor Career Achievement Award.

According to Eidson, the 2015 festival received more than 700 submissions, double the entries submitted last year. As a result, it raked in nearly $19,000 in entry fees, compared to $4,500 in 2014.

In 2014, MovieMaker magazine named the festival one of the “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”

Another source of revenue was a trio of festival fundraisers held last fall. Special screenings of “Breaking Away,” “Daddy Long Legs” and “The Goonies” brought in about $30,000, Eidson said.

Work is already underway on the 2016 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Dates will be announced in May.

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