Sept. 05--DANBURY -- The Connecticut Film Festival, which has been a multi-day, multi-movie event in the city for five years, won't take the stage here this year and will, in all probability, not return in 2014.
The festival's director, Tom Carruthers, said Wednesday that his main problem has been his inability to secure any dates at the Palace Theater, the art deco movie house that's been the center of the festival activities and where the festival's major films were shown.
"I just didn't have a major space," Carruthers said. "I needed a venue."
The Palace's owner, Joseph DaSilva Jr., said Wednesday that he hadn't spoken to Carruthers for "a couple of years."
Carruthers said this was not true.
"It make no sense for me to not try and rent it," DaSilva said of the Palace.
In the meantime, Carruthers said, the festival will sponsor a free day of films at the Bethel Library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 26. The festival also has a monthly showing on a new film at the Bethel Cinema on the third Thursday of every month.
Carruthers said he has also talked to people in the arts community in Ridgefield about holding a multiday festival there in 2014.
"I want to put something together in Ridgefield," he said, noting that the Ridgefield Playhouse and other venues are all within easy walking distance of the town's restaurants.
"I want it to be a walkable venue," he said.
Unless there are changes of hearts and minds, the break with Danbury will end the festival run that began in Danbury in 2008.
During that time, the festival showed dozens of films, both full-length and shorts. It utilized the Palace, the Danbury Library and the Bethel Cinema to showcase independent films. In its last year, in 2012, it had 75 films.
DaSilva acknowledged Wednesday, the festival marked the revival of the Palace as an entertainment center. The theater had been shuttered from 1995 to 2008, when DaSilva reopened it for the festival. The theater is running a regular schedule of live entertainment. On Oct. 4, it will host the Manhattan Short Film Festival.
For the first three years, the city supported the festival with a total of about $190,000. Carruthers ran the festival on his own in Danbury the next two years.
Andrea Gartner, manager of CityCenter Danbury, which promotes arts, entertainment and cultural events in the city's downtown, said Wednesday she was sad to hear of the festival's departure.
"I think it's unfortunate we couldn't build on the momentum of past film festivals," she said.
Mayor Mark Boughton has questioned whether the city saw any real return on the money it put up to support the festival.
"Obviously, we want the festival to stay here," he said in 2011, "but we don't have any money to give him (Carruthers). At the end of the day, there was not enough economic benefit versus the dollars we spent to support the festival in the long term."
On Wednesday, Boughton seemed unfazed by the festival's departure.
"OK," he said when told of Carruthers' plan.
Boughton said the festival never brought the city the increased spending downtown it had hoped for.
He said Danbury was interested in taking other directions, citing the Mini Makers Faire and Mad Hackers festival the city held in June.
"We've moved on," Boughton said.
"I understand, he has a business model he's following," Boughton said of Carruthers. "We wish him well."'
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