Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tribeca film festival: history and logistics

It’s been five years now. The Tribeca Film Festival is opens with a film which reminds everyone why there’s one in the first place. Not that we really need to be, but it was there, and to be perfectly frank, the thing needs a boost.

While it’s been growing ever since the first one opened at the Regal Cinemas at Battery Park City’s mall in May of 2002. The goal of the project has been met with mixed results. The hole in the ground that was being emptied of debreas on day one of the first festival is still there. The huge multiplex that housed it is now mostly shoe and drug stores, and while business in the downtown area has recovered it’s not nearly as good as it should have been this far down the road.

One of the problems was that the various venues were hard to get to. There was the west side highway to cross, and the subway was a goodly distance from most of the venues, many of which were damn far from one another and it was almost impossible to get from one screening to another by foot. There was a free bus, but that was rather erratic in scheduling and for the most part was worse than useless. If one screening was at the Regal, and the next one you wanted to get to was at the Tribeca Cinema at Canal and Varrick, there was no way in hell you could get there in time besides taking an expensive taxicab. The tickets were expensive, and missing one was a real bitch.

The ancillary events were okay. There’s a street fair again this year, but the grand live concert in Battery Park that was the glory of the first three festivals is gone. The panels are all over the place, and in downtown that means it’s hard to get from any of the theaters to where they are, which was a real pain for the entire history of the festival.

This year, the festival outgrows Tribeca and moves uptown. This leads to even more problems without a weekly subway pass. There are screenings on the west side just west of Penn station and waay up on 68th street and Broadway, which makes the logistics even worse. While the subway is actually pretty easy, it’s not all that consistent, and one can spend quite a while waiting at the station.

The films themselves aren’t always the best. True at one film last year got an oscar nomination, and some others received acclaim, there’s very few of them and in general there’s almost no buzz aside from a number of Hollywood films who’ve had a print lent to the festival a day or two before release. I mean who would want to pay extra in order to see “RV” a day early? But for the most part, people are going to go for the stuff they’ll never have a chance to see again, and there’s plenty of that. Two hundred and seventy something films all in all.

The best thing to do is get a weeklong Metrocard® and make sure you remember the subway or bus routes.

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