Local film festival grows to two cities

Attendance goals are triple the best year of Poppy Japer

With the inclusion of Gilroy, Poppy Jasper Film Festival organizers are hoping to sell 3,000 tickets.

For the first time in its 14-year history, the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival has added a second location, expanding into two buildings in downtown Gilroy.

The Granada Theater, the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse and the Grange Hall in Morgan Hill, will continue to host the bulk of the four-day festival.

Festival President Mattie Scariot is hoping for significant attendance increases from the expansion of the venues for the April 5-8 event. Her goal of 3,000 tickets is three times the previous festival high of 1,000 tickets in the 2004 inaugural year.

The increased ticket sales could be a boost for local downtown restaurants and bars in downtown Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

“We expect the festival to have a big impact on local restaurants,” Scariot said. “We will not serve food at the event, so people will need to go out for lunch and dinner. I think it will create a lot of economic vitality for those restaurants.”

For Scariot, the high expectations are following on the heels of several years of dropping ticket sales. Ticket sales have ranged within the hundreds, and the festival’s weakest showing in 2016 at Gavilan College in recent memory. To help right the ship, Scariot has led a serious of changes to how the festival is marketed.

“We’re doing a lot of things differently,” Scariot said. “We changed our branding, our logo, the website, and we added new programs to appeal to more people. We want to get filmmakers from outside of the community, but we also want to include those from within the community.”

In both Morgan Hill and Gilroy the film festival will be centered downtown.

In Morgan Hill, the Granada, 17440 Monterey Road, will be the center of the festival screenings, with the Opening Gala on April 6. The Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road will open the festival April 5 with a Local Filmmakers Day, with selected films screened on April 6.

The Old Strand Theater in Gilroy, at 7588 Monterey Road, formally the Vix, will open its 5,000 square-foot-event space for a film screening room all day on Saturday, April 7.

A building at 7652 Monterey Road, formerly The District, will host a filmmaker’s lounge on that day, where music videos will be screened, and live bands will perform, followed by a midnight movie.

“Rather than scramble to find a new place, I have a building that is currently under negotiations to lease, so I donated the building so we can keep the festival downtown,” said The District building owner Gary Walton. He was optimistic about the festival’s benefits for Gilroy.

“Obviously, if you have thousands of people here the restaurants and hotels will benefit,” Walton said. “We’ll get the hotel tax dollars; some will shop at the outlet stores. In a broader sense, we’re looking to bring people into the community.”

Aside from providing a home at his Granada Theater for the festival’s opening gala, and its closing awards ceremony, owner Frank Léal has also assisted with the festival’s marketing.

“Frank Léal has been a tremendous help.,” Scariot said. “They are helping us to make radio and television commercials that are getting a lot of airplay on local airwaves. He’s a good person and a great supporter.”

Since the films will run late in the evening, Scariot believes that most festivalgoers will stay locally. The Holiday Inn Express in Morgan Hill is the official hotel of the festival. The Holiday Inn has donated 10 rooms to the event for volunteers and visiting filmmakers.

“The Holiday Inn Express was a huge coup for us, nobody has ever done that before,” Scariot said. They came to us saying they wanted to work with us.”

Two of the festival’s special guests include two notable Gilroyans who’ve made an impact in Hollywood. Randy Spendlove, President of Paramount Music, and Emmy award-winning writer Kevin Rubio.

“In Gilroy, the city council has been very supportive,” Scariot said. “Fred Tovar wants to put forth a proclamation to honor Spendlove and Rubio. Of course, Gary Walton has been a tremendous help. I would give him another ‘Man of the Year Award.”

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival is a 501 (3) c non-profit organization, and relies solely on about 60 volunteers.

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival will be held from April 5 – 8 in downtown Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Tickets and a complete festival schedule are available at pjiff.org.

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