Sidewalk 2011: Your first in-depth look at B irmingham’s film festival
The crowds will converge on the Alabama Theatre downtown
a month earlier for the 13th annual Sidewalk Moving
Note: This is an expanded version of a story that originally appeared on Magic City Post.
The state’s biggest film festival is hitting the streets.
When the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival returns a month earlier for its 13th edition, it will offer a new venue unlike any other: an outdoor screen and stage.
The free area, Sidewalk Central will feature live music and comedy, as well as panels and one or two evening screenings. It will run all day Aug. 27 and 28 in conjunction with the annual downtown event, which shows more than 200 movies from local and out-of-state filmmakers. The festival had taken place in late September in previous years.
“We’ve tried a variety of things over the years,” says Chloe Collins, festival executive director, about finding a way to feed attendees on site. “This is providing a central hub for everybody to possibly be entertained, definitely get something to eat or drink, hang out for a while and cool off in the misting tent.”
Food vendors at Sidewalk Central will include Bottletree Cafe, Brick and Tin, Carmella’s Italian Ice, the Dreamcakes Bakery cupcake truck, the Cantina food truck, plus beverages from Buffalo Rock. Also available will be vegetarian options, beer, wine and frozen drinks.
Schaeffer Eye Center, which will sponsor the audience choice award, will do a special promotion on site, though Collins declined to elaborate.
Take it outside
The new outdoor hub will be just west of the Alabama Theatre, on a closed-off portion of 18th Street North between Third and Fourth Avenues. In case of rain, Sidewalk Central will still offer food and drink service, but the stage will be shut down.
Festival organizers have tried other options in the past, including asking area restaurants to stay open for the weekend and including their info in the program, and providing on-site caterers. In 2010, the SideLot was to be a meeting place in the parking lot across from McWane Science Center, with bands, sponsor tables and a food vendor.
Instead, it hit a series of mishaps and became the focus of ire for many attendees. The lot’s owner changed the allotted space to one-half the original size a few weeks before the festival; the food vendor didn’t open for business until late Saturday afternoon; sponsors tables went unstaffed for most of the weekend.
While the outdoor area will serve as a gathering place, it’s the indoor venues that will again serve as film oases from the brutal August heat. Sidewalk dropped a venue and shrunk the festival “footprint” considerably: All seven venues encircle a two-block area.
“I’m really excited about the footprint,” Collins says. “Pulling everything closer together is going to force more interaction. It’s going to be really obvious that an event is taking place.”
Map: Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival 2011 layout
No more long walks or drives uptown to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Alabama Power headquarters or even the Birmingham Museum of Art. (In fact, sponsor Landers McLarty Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram is providing five Dodge Durangos for continuous shuttle service around the site.)
The festival still plans to cross-promote with the Civil Rights Institute during Aug. 27 and 28, offering free or discounted admission to the museum with certain Sidewalk passes and booth space.
The footprint has shrunk, but one major genre has spread out. Like 2010, both Sidewalk and gay/lesbian film festival Birmingham Shout will take place the same weekend. Shout screenings, which had all been at the Hill Event Center at the Alabama Theatre, will be interspersed throughout all venues in 2011. As before, a 1- or 2-day pass allows entrance into both Sidewalk and Shout screenings.
The total number of venues for the combined festivals will be seven, one fewer than in 2010, though Collins says the total number of films to be scheduled, more than 200, will be only slightly less than in previous years. That’s because Shout is dropping a single film block, the opening night film that had been on Thursday night in 2010.
Even the awards ceremony has moved on site to the Alabama Theatre, after having been held for years on Sunday night at WorkPlay in Lakeview.
Both festivals will share a single 8.5- by 11-inch program, though with only a one cover this year (2010 had dual covers for Sidewalk and Shout). In addition, Collins says the festivals will offer a pocket-size version, similar to other film festivals, because of audience demand for something more portable.
And both festivals continue to be programmed by separate committees, with separate entry processes for submitting filmmakers. In addition to a Sunday night closing film for each festival, organizers may also have a Saturday night spotlight film for each. (While the festival will have two encore screenings s on Sunday, the Edge 12 will offer more Sidewalk encores in a 5-week series in the fall.)
No lineup has been announced for either festival, though organizers plan to show previews of a few selections at the free monthly Sidewalk Salon at 6 tonight at Rojo on Southside. In addition, the Filmmobile will be stopping by. The blue bus from Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles is on a 6-week cross-country tour showing movies and providing filmmaking workshops.
Sidewalk itself has been on the move, having completed a 2-week online fund-raising campaign last week to bring in $20,682.
The momentum has Collins cautiously optimistic, looking to increase revenues by 7 percent.
“This year, I feel really good, and I’m knocking on wood that that’s not an omen of bad things to come,” she says, with a laugh.
Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival takes place Aug. 26-28 downtown. Tickets are $10 for a single film up to $275 for a VIP pass and can be purchased online. For more information, visit theSidewalk Moving Picture Festival site.
- Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival Facebook | Twitter @sidewalkfilm
- The festival is still seeking volunteers. Sign up online.
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