Hollywood Comes to San Jose

Cinequest is bigger than ever this year

A sold-out movie premiere opened the Cinequest Film Festival in downtown San Jose Wednesday night, with movie stars, city officials, residents and  visitors packing into the newly renovated California Theatre for the start of  the 12-day celebration of creativity and art.

Organizers rolled out the red carpet onto the sidewalk of South  First Street this evening as a crowd gathered outside the theater, which  seats 1,000 and was filled to capacity by the end of the night.

Stars of the movie "Wake," which premiered tonight as the film  festival's first screening, arrived to walk the red carpet and proceed  through the theater.

The movie, starring Bijou Philips, Jane Seymour, Danny Masterson  and Marguerite Moreau, is a dark comedy exploring Philips' character Carys,  who frequents strangers' funerals and falls in love.

"To have this movie at this festival is such a big deal to me,"  Philips said. "It's just an awesome project. We had no money, we really  struggled, we had to just sort of try and make it if we could. It was rough,  it was rough getting this film made."

Philips, who said she has family in the Bay Area and spent some of  her childhood here, was clearly awed as she walked into the expansive  theater.

"It's the most beautiful theater I've ever seen," Philips said.  "It's unbelievable. This is what I love about California, theaters like  this."

Philips' boyfriend Danny Masterson, who starred in the sitcom  "That 70s Show," stars in "Wake" and is also screening "Capers" on Thursday.  He joked that he has enjoyed visits to the Bay Area before.

"I've been up to San Francisco probably 50 times, I've been to San  Jose probably 10 times, and I love both cities a lot," he said. "I've been to  Oakland twice, too. I know about Oak-Town, you know."

More than 72 films are scheduled to premiere during the festival,  which will also feature forums on weekends. The California Theatre, Camera  12, and the San Jose Repertory Theater will show films, said Jessica Trainor,  a spokeswoman for the festival.

Local filmmakers and actors featured in the dozens of films  screening during the festival also milled into the California Theatre this  evening for opening night.

Mark Tran, a San Jose resident and former film major at San Jose  State University, will be screening his film "All About Dad" on Saturday.

His script for the movie, a Vietnamese comedic family drama,  started in a university screenwriting class, Tran said. A professor  encouraged Tran to finish the screenplay, and the "very low budget"  production enlisted the help of friends to complete production, Tran said.

Showing the film just blocks from his alma mater is a thrill, Tran  said.

"It's exciting," he said. "Especially Cinequest having such a  diverse demographic and all of my family and friends can come see it."

Organizers have estimated the festival, which will continue  through March 8, will boost business in downtown San Jose and have an  economic impact between $4 and $5 million.

An estimated 80,000 people from 44 different countries are  expected to participate in some part of the festival, with hundreds of  filmmakers and other industry officials also in attendance.

City officials attended tonight's event, including Mayor Chuck  Reed and several city council members.

The city supports the 19-year-old festival and its ability to  bring together creativity and innovation, Reed spokeswoman Michelle McGurk  said.

"Cinequest has almost two decades of history in downtown San Jose  and continues to grow," McGurk said. "Part of what makes it really special  for San Jose and for Silicon Valley is that the event shows the exciting  things that can happen when art and technology connect."

Hotel bookings, restaurants and other businesses benefit from the  influx of visitors downtown, she said.

"(The festival) really brings life with all of the visitors who  come downtown to see the movies, to frequent the restaurants and the  nightclubs downtown," she said. "Our downtown businesses really benefit from  the activity that Cinequest generates."

McGurk noted that given the poor economy, a sold-out opening night  demonstrates the festival's unshakable ability to draw crowds.

"At a time when the economy is down, to have an event sold out for  opening night and have numbers that look like they're meeting their goals and  exceeding their goals its really exciting and it shows what a tradition the  event has become," she said.

Information about ticket prices and show times for Cinequest  screening and forums is available online at http://www.cinequest.org.

Copyright BAYCN - Bay City News
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