Representatives of The Garden State Film Festival [GSFF] are still in search of a city to host the 2014 event, and Atlantic City is not the only option.
Communications between GSFF board members and city officials to keep the event in Asbury Park have proven unsuccessful. In addition, dates for next year’s festival could not be secured from the Paramount theater’s current owner, waterfront redeveloper Madison Marquette.
“It’s a sad day, but Madison Marquette won’t give us a date,” said Diane Raver, co-founder and executive director of the GSFF.
The GSFF has been held in the Paramount Theater since the festival’s inception ten years ago. Due to a state-mandated installation of sprinkler systems in the theater and adjoining Convention Hall — which must be addressed by the fall — Madison Marquette may decommission the building because of the cost of the fire protection systems. Madison Marquette has said that its loss of control of 600 parking spaces along the waterfront is a major factor affecting its investment decisions regarding Convention Hall and boardwalk properties.
“We remain hopeful that we can resolve our long term parking concerns with the city and are eager to continue this dialogue with the new administration,” said Carrie Turner, director of retail for Madison Marquette.
Although she thinks it is “tragic,” Raver said she and the other GSFF board members must consider a move to another host city.
Reports of the festival’s potential move to Atlantic City surfaced earlier in the week, but there are other alternatives, said Raver.
“Atlantic City is not the only contender here,” she said.
City officials from New Brunswick and Newark have also expressed interest in hosting the annual event, which draws at least 30,000 people, according to Raver.
Tom Gilmour, the city’s special events coordinator, reached out to Raver to express his sadness in the possible loss of the event, she said. Gilmour did not return the Sun’s request for comment.
A Jersey Shore native herself, Raver, who turns 60 this year, grew up in Brielle. Her family has lived in the Shore area for multiple generations and many of her family members were employed in Asbury Park during its heyday – her great aunt owned a business on Mattison Street at one time, she said.
“Asbury is very important to me, [the Jersey Shore] is my home,” she said. “[Asbury] was our place, that’s where I fell in love with the movie industry – at the [since demolished] Mayfair Theater. It was gorgeous.”
Raver said Part of the GSFF’s original mission was to help kick start the revitalization of Asbury Park ten years ago.
“And that’s what we did,” she said. “For those of us that remember, Asbury was desperate at that time.”
The GSFF was also the first event to be held in the Paramount after Hurricane Sandy devastated most of the New Jersey shore line in October.
Raver sees the annual April event as a significant way to help “kick-off to the tourist season” in Asbury.
“We pump thousands of people that normally wouldn’t come during the off-season,” she said. “It’s a huge economic boost at a time of year [business owners] would not normally see those numbers.”
If Asbury cannot host the event, Jackie Pappas, executive director of the Asbury Park chamber of commerce, would still like to see Asbury have a role in the festival’s promotion.
“The film festival has been an important cultural event each spring in Asbury Park,” Pappas said in an email to the Sun. “It would be a disappointment to lose it from our city, but we would have to celebrate the success of it growing up with Asbury and moving on to bigger horizons. We certainly would hope to work creatively with the festival to keep a presence in Asbury Park through a tandem event or other joint promotion.”
In the event that the festival has to be held outside of Asbury this year, Raver said she would consider coming back to Asbury Park in the future.
“All things are possible,” she said. “It’s hard to say what is going to happen in the future.”
The GSFF board has a meeting scheduled for the end of August, at which time it will make a determination on a host city if festival dates in Asbury Park cannot be secured by then.
“By early fall we’ll know where we are going,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m doing anything hurtful. I owe it to my co-founder Bobby Pasquarelli not to let it just die.”