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2013 celebrated the ninth edition of Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League’s rootin’ tootin’ celebration of all things horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and “just plain fantastic.” Since its early days, the festival has grown from four days of programming to a sprawling event that now includes awards, ceremonies, a video game portioned dubbed “Fantastic Arcade” and even a night of movie debate-themed boxing.
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Though attendees of every type flock to Austin, TX each year to take part in Fantastic Fest, Brandy Fons, co-owner of the Drafthouse’s publicity team Fons PR, saw room for expansion — or another fest entirely. She considers herself a genre fan of the chick flick persuasion, fan without a place to celebrate In 2012, she was obsessed was the a capella-themed comedy Pitch Perfect, a fantastic movie, but not a Fantastic Fest movie.
Fons and Alamo programmer Sarah Pitre hope Forever Fest can be the answer to that problem. Set for Nov. 1 – 3 in Austin, the celebration of everything from rom-coms to young adult fiction to adorable cat videos acts as an extension of an idea that was already blossoming at the Alamo Drafthouse. In 2008, Pitre was approached by Drafthouse to program a film series geared towards woman. “Girlie Night” is now a monthly staple, handpicking “slumber party favorites” for women and men to enjoy.
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“The Alamo is all about celebrating film,” Pitre says. “If you look at what the types of movies they celebrate, they’re all over the board in terms of genre. It was back when the first Sex and the City movie came out that Tim realized girls go to movies. That’s when he started thinking that we were missing a huge demographic aka half the world’s population.”
Pitre recalls programming Love, Actually on her first December with Drafthouse. The programmers were skeptical whether it had the repertory appeal to draw in crowds. Love Actually sold out four screenings.
“People use this term ‘guilty pleasure,’” Pitre says of the films she curates. “I hate that. If you love a movie, you love a movie. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t like it or respect it. It’s about how you see it.”
Forever Fest is starting small for its first outing. On deck for the weekend are screenings of Empire Records and Sixteen Candles, with stars Liane Curtis and Debbie Pollack in attendance, a musical homage known as “Danceoke” where participants recreate the moves of the film clips playing behind them, and a writers panel featuring names like Kirsten Smith (10 Things I Hate About You).
Selecting films came easily to Fons and Pitre. “I consider any film about the female experience to be a ‘chick flick.’ I know that term can be used in a derogatory way. Brandy and I want to reclaim it because we think films about the female experience are vital to telling women’s stories,” says Pitre.
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While there are many organizations wrangling female writers and directors for a more traditional festival, Forever Fest wants to nurture and promote a specific breed of films in a way similar to Fantastic Fest. And like that festival, it could into a safe haven for Hollywood’s “girlier” offerings. As YA explodes and the audience responses, Forever Fest could live between the two. This year, they’re even having their first bite: Fox will be screen their young adult drama The Book Thief for fest-goers. Fons hopes that Forever Fest can eventually lure both mainstream and independent filmmakers to its screens in the years to come.
Forever Fest is currently in the thick of Kickstarter campaigning, but Fons insists that the show will go on whether they hit the goal or not — it’s all about scale (even for their own events, Alamo Drafthouse charges for theater rental space). And right now, women who love movies need that place to love them freely and wildly.
“It might sound crazy, but we feel the characters in these movies are people we know or remind us of people we know,” Fons says. “We want to dive into them as deeply as we can. It’s a cathartic experience — to take your love for something to the next level.”
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