SIFF Just as Long, Slightly Smaller

The press gathered today at Seattle Center to see what SIFF hopes to be its future headquarters: the humble Alki Room (northeast of KeyArena, near the Vera Project and DuPen Fountain). There, a short walk from SIFF Cinema (at McCaw Hall), the film festival hopes to build a permanent home. It's currently housed in one of Paul Allen's doomed properties in South Lake Union, where condos will eventually rise with the real estate market. Though that economic rebound might take a while to happen, just as SIFF's fundraising also seems to be a protracted affair, with half the $3 million budget raised so far.

Among remarks delivered by festival organizers was a plea from Managing Director Deborah Person to join "the 35 Club," whose donors are encouraged to give $35, $350, $3,500, $35,000 or more to the planned renovation of the Alki Room. The new facility, to be called the SIFF Film Center, has been in the works for a while. I have on my desk a slick brochure that includes a computer-animated architectural rendering of the place, which is to contain offices, a library, classroom, and 100-seat screening room. The same brochure states, "In 2005, with the increasing development and transformation of South Lake Union, the festival learned that it would permanently lose its headquarters by the end of 2008."

Well, that deadline has certainly passed. And now the economy is in the tank, which means SIFF's planned move may be delayed, and the 35 Club may be around a lot longer than anyone expected. But enough about real estate! Let's get learn some festival facts after the jump....

You can go to the SIFF site to start ordering passes, though the schedule won't be up until Thurs., May 7, when you can purchase individual tickets. The festival runs Thurs., May 21-Sun., June 14, and we publish our annual SIFF guide on May 20.

This year's fest runs 25 days, equal to prior years. Yet there will be slightly fewer titles, said Artistic Director Carl Spence, with fewer venues. "We're still the biggest festival in the USA," Spence added, "with expected attendance of 150,000." His rough count of titles can be tallied as 203 features, 54 documentaries, and 124 shorts. (By my math the overall number is down six percent from last year, but the difference is mainly among short films.) Typically, SIFF loses a few titles at the last second, so the numbers are always a little squishy.

Spence also noted that, "The majority of the films are without U.S. distribution." My past experience is that perhaps 15-20 percent of the titles eventually come back to Seattle for regular commercial engagements. (The lag can be as long as two years.) What's different from a few years ago, of course, is that Netflix, IndieFlix, Amazon, IFC, YouTube, and myriad other forms of direct digital distribution mean that you'll eventually be able to see every last obscure movie from SIFF. How satisfying that experience will be depends on the size and quality of your PC monitor or TV screen.

We'll parse the titles and consider the three gala movies tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to join the 35 Club. Though donations of 35 cents are frowned upon.

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