Even though the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival utilizes theaters throughout Seattle, its heart remains on Capitol Hill.
"We would never move the festival off Capitol Hill," said SIFF managing director Deborah Person.
However, this year, SIFF is trimming its Capitol Hill presence, giving up the smaller Broadway Performance Hall in favor of the new 400-seat SIFF Cinema at McCaw Hall.
"I'm sad to lose that venue [BPH]," said Person, "because there was such a festival feel to running back and forth between screenings there and the Egyptian."
This year, the closest theaters are the Egyptian and the Harvard Exit - a difficult sprint if a movie lover wants to see back-to-back screenings, admitted Person. SIFF also returns to the Northwest Film Forum for one week of screenings. "We love partnering with them," said Person.
The 2007 SIFF, which opens May 24, spreads a wealth of movies from Bellevue's Lincoln Square to Seattle's Egyptian, Harvard Exit and NWFF on Capitol Hill, Neptune in the University District, Pacific Place downtown and SIFF Cinema at the Seattle Center.
Despite all the venues, most films won't repeat more than once (and that's usually one Seattle showing and one Bellevue screening) - which means festival goers, even those with full passes, can't see everything. Nor can they expect to catch up on missed movies in the art houses later in the year.
"The majority of the films in this festival are still struggling to find distribution in the United States," said SIFF artistic director Carl Spence.
Even the opening night movie, "Son of Rambow," won't play here until 2008 - a change from past years when the SIFF opener generally went into wide release a few weeks if not days after the SIFF began.
For the first time, SIFF will use the big auditorium at McCaw Hall (usually the home of the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet) for their opening night screening and gala party. The organizers expect to fill the 2,900-seat house and Spence thinks the movie-loving audience will embrace the themes of "Son of Rambow." The feature film follows the adventures of two young British boys who want to make the ultimate action feature in the 1980s.
"The movie is from the guys who brought you 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' and while that may not impress you, this is the film that they've been dying to make," said Spence, who added that he fell in love with the movie after he saw a Sundance screening of it.
Spence also expects "hundreds of guests" to show up at this year's SIFF. The "tribute guest" this year will be Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is expected to introduce his new movie "Slipstream" (May 29 at SIFF Cinema and May 30 at the Egyptian) as well as attend a special screening of "Remains of the Day" (May 30 at the Egyptian).
And while SIFF continues to grow and change, the "staggeringly large line-up" still has all the elements that SIFF fans love, said Spence during a press preview.
The "Face the Music" track is back, with live music at venues like the Triple Door, Neuomo's and Capitol Hill Arts Center. "The Fly Filmmaking Challenge" once again spills local filmmakers onto the streets with five days to make and five days to edit their films (screenings at the Egyptian May 28 and June 13).
For lovers of the "Pirates of the Caribbean," SIFF programmers picked the special archival presentations in "Swashbuckler Saturdays" and old movie buffs can catch a rare screening of "Tugboat Annie," a 1933 movie filmed around Seattle's Pike Place Market, on June 6.
Documentaries will let theater-seat travelers journey to the farthest corners of the world, including "An Artic Tale" from the producers of "March of the Penguins."
"We have 227 narrative features in this year's SIFF including a strong selection of premieres from around the world," said Spence. "What people don't always realize is that we are one of the largest film festivals in the world."
But, until the madness begins on May 24, the biggest challenge for SIFF lovers will be charting out their own personal festival. To help those who like to make last-minute decision, SIFF has modified the rules on some of their ticket packs.
"We've changed things like 20-ticket packs so they can now be redeemed online," said Person. "And you don't have to pick all your movies at once." SIFF also offers numerous passes (which allow early entry into screenings), student and senior "Reel Deals," $7 matinees and even gift certificates.
More information about the complete festival can be found at the SIFF Box Office on the second level of Pacific Place or online at www.seattlefilm.org.
Rosemary Jones writes about arts and entertainment for the Capitol Hill Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.