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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Business Owners Give Mixed Review to Calabasas Festival

The MethodFest Film Festival swept into Calabasas for the first time on April 1 through 7, showing 26 feature films and 46 shorts over the seven- day span. While the event drew sponsorships and support from many local businesses, several merchants at the Calabasas Commons claimed that they did not see any surge in business from festival-goers. Previously held in Burbank, the MethodFest was lured to Calabasas by the promise of $50,000 from the Calabasas City Council and $25,000 in in-kind donations. The funding was more than double what the festival had received from Burbank. By most accounts, the festival was a success, with ticket sales up 20 to 25 percent, according to MethodFest executive director Don Franken. “We’re still a non-profit festival and if we make any money we’re going to put it back into next year’s program. But it’s not likely going to make money; we’re hoping to break even. But I think we’ve set such a strong foundation for the future that next year we’ll do even better,” Franken said. It has been very busy at the Commons. It’s hard to get a parking place. At times it’s been next to impossible.” This shortage of available parking spaces has led several merchants to feel that the festival may have adversely impacted their businesses, as loyal customers have gotten frustrated searching for parking and instead headed home. “Business has not increased because of the Method Fest. If anything, parking prohibited some customers from getting here. They were just going to the movies and not really shopping,” Nate Dutton, the manager of Calabasas Commons clothing retailer Gary’s Island said. “We’ve had some foot traffic, which is inevitable, but no more than on a weekend when they’re showing popular movies. I know that we weren’t impacted positively by it.” Damian Raven, the general manager at The Marmalade Caf & #233; and Catering Company, one of the festival’s sponsors, also speculated that the lack of available parking contributed to the stagnant shopping nature of the weekend. “Business was actually slower on the main opening night of Method Fest. I think it may have been slower because the moviegoers took up a lot of parking spaces. They were just generally going to see the moves and taking off,” Raven said. The dearth of available parking largely stemmed from a lack of public awareness of additional nearby parking, officials said. The city had arranged for two additional parking lots to accommodate overflow and had set up a shuttle to take festival patrons to and from the theater. According to Carol Washburn, the president of the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce, the festival was definitely a major business success in spite of the temporary lull that some stores encountered. Over 30 chamber members participated in the festival as either sponsors or ambassadors for the MethodFest. “I think that the festival has been highly successful. I’m hearing that from both the local businesses and the filmmakers who are in town. Everyone seems to love the city and the weather,” Washburn said. “I’ve heard over and over again that the MethodFest and Calabasas seem like a perfect fit. I think that we’ve seen a good surge of business, particularly in the Commons and the courtyard in old town Calabasas. It seems to be the talk of the town.” Though the city had to pay to pry the MethodFest away from Burbank, Washburn believes that the town made a sound fiscal move. “It was worth it to give the festival the money for the positive response that it is getting from people. We never would’ve known if we hadn’t tried it. It seems to have brought out entertainment industry people who live here, to get out and see who their neighbors are and to contribute to the success of the event by supporting it,” Washburn said. “It can only go upward from here. I’m meeting with MethodFest people and the city to see how it can be more effective in years to come. The Chamber is going to try to be a support system.” The festival drew an array of stars to the town. The Bridges family including Jeff and Beau Bridges took home the MethodFest’s Bridges to Cinema ,Family Legacy Award, while venerable actor Martin Landau took home the festival’s 2005 MethodFest Lifetime Achievement Award. Other notable events that occurred during the festival’s run were an Indie Music night and a closing ceremony and awards gala hosted by actor Sean Astin and KNBC-TV Channel 4 Weatherman Fritz Coleman.

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