SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After back to back disasters, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival could be bringing a badly needed economic boost to the area.
The Downtown Organization is hoping the thousands of people on the move throughout the movie theaters and seminar locations will also spend time in stores and restaurants.
It could not come at a better time. The streets have been absent of big crowds after the ash fall out for weeks during the Thomas Fire and the recent Montecito mudflow catastrophe, that led to what's expected to be 23 official deaths (21 confirmed now and two are still missing), a two-week freeway closure, and the costliest property damage in history.
Even as the dust settles Interim Downtown Organization Director Dave Lombardi from Distinctive Framing 'N' Art is upbeat about the festival kickoff.
"The film festival is going to bring a lot of people up here from L.A. and different parts of the world. We are going to embrace that here on State street in the downtown area,” said Lombardi.
He sees the regional benefits beyond the core theater district.
“Everybody’s helping everybody. As far away as from Carpinteria to Goleta, everybody is coming together to make everyone feel welcome and that’s what we want to do,” said Lombardi. “We going to have a great synergy of community and healing and solidarity throughout the event."
The event begins Wednesday evening with an opening night movie at the Arlington Theater and an after party at the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center.
The festival has over 200 films and tributes that have many of the industry top stars and Oscar nominees scheduled to appear.
For a complete list visit http://sbiff.org.
Before and after events, Lombardi sees many people experiencing downtown for strolling, shopping and eating.
"So they can go see a movie and eat something at Paseo Nuevo or up here they can have a dinner before the big events at night. They are standing in front of different venues and see what’s in a store and go back there (later) even if they are closed. It’s all good,” said Lombardi.
His store is next to the Arlington Theater, and each night with the major events in the theater, guests line up by his window which means over 1,500 people generally get to see his displays as they go by. That's a boost any owner would appreciate as a way to have a customer come back another day.
Nearby restaurants such as Opal, Carlitos and Company and Jane are in the direct line of the fans and star arrival zone. Many restaurants within a block are often booked for hours before the festivities. Sometimes the honorees are inside as well, dining next to their fans.
Special lighting will be installed at some of the major event sites, and crowd control blockades will be set up during the evening hours. They are pulled back during most of the daytime events.
Volunteers will be assigned to theaters to assist those attending and anyone with a regional Santa Barbara question.