Newark film festival cancelled after seven years
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 21:08
Newark Film Festival founder Barry Schlecker said he had no choice but to cancel this year’s annual event after it turned out to be too much to handle.
Schlecker, 72, who founded the festival seven years ago said he was forced to call off the event due to venue issues and a loss of sponsors. He said talk of construction to the festival’s previous location, the Newark Shopping Center, along with a lack of date flexibility, were contributing factors in his decision.
Schlecker said in the past he had to rent special equipment to screen DVDs because the Newark Cinema is outdated, causing additional financial strain.
With 150 showings that played three films at the same time, attendees had an opportunity to see several films not available in other places, Schlecker said. He said the festival introduced movie-goers to local filmmakers as well as prominent films like Academy Award nominated “Winter’s Bone,” starring Jennifer Lawrence.
Laura Henderson, General Manager of Newark Cinema Center 3 and festival-goer, said Schlecker brought in films the cinema would not normally be able to show. She said the staff is sad to see the week-long festival go because it was successful for the cinema, drawing in a loyal crowd of approximately 2,500 people each year.
“September is generally a pretty slow month,” Henderson said. “It was a helpful event in bringing in people in what was otherwise a slow week. We definitely got a lot of advertising from it and we’re bummed out it’s not going to be back.”
Newark Mayor Vance A. Funk III said he was not surprised and even suspected early in June that the festival would fall apart. He said he thought Schlecker took on too much and was also balancing other projects like the Brandywine Arts Festival.
Schlecker said he has considered moving the festival to a new location and has had some offers from towns nearby. He said he hopes loyal supporters follow him wherever the festival may go in the future.
Funk, however, said he feels the festival should remain in Newark.
“Newark is very supportive of the arts,” Funk said. “He can take it to Wilmington, Middletown, wherever he wants. This is its home and it should be here.”
Schlecker said the cancellation will have a detrimental ripple effect on the surrounding area. He said not only will the filmmakers and filmgoers be affected, but the local businesses may also suffer. He said the festival brought in people outside of Newark to Main Street where the theater is located.
Schlecker said he typically plans the festival for the weekend after Labor Day, with hopes of drawing in university students. He said the turnout of college-aged movie-goers has been dismal in the past.
Senior Tom McKenna, an English major with a film concentration, said he attended the festival as a freshman and enjoyed it. He said he hasn’t had the time to go since, but was interested in going this fall.
“I’m sure if it took place this year I’d have made considerable effort to attend,” he said.