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True/False looks ahead after "fantastic growth" in attendance

Monday, March 2, 2009 | 7:56 p.m. CST; updated 8:56 p.m. CST, Monday, March 2, 2009

COLUMBIA — The True/False Film Festival kept downtown Columbia bustling this weekend, but all is back to normal as the documentary fest that brought out the quirky held its final screenings Sunday night.

David Wilson, festival co-director along with Paul Sturtz, said they have yet to compute the final numbers but estimated about 23,000 tickets were sold this year. Last year, 18,300 were sold at the festival.

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“We’re getting closer and closer every year to what I think will be the peak of our attendance,” Wilson said. “And I’m ready every year for our attendance to be a little bit less than it was before. Although, obviously that didn’t happen this year — we had fantastic growth.”

Although attendance has continued to increase, Wilson said the number of films at the festival managed to stay constant and won’t be changing anytime soon.

“As the (festival’s) prestige grows, more people are coming with a film. Whereas before we might have brought the director in, now we get the director and the producer and the subject,” he said.

True/False brought in about 140 guests this weekend, including directors, programmers from other festivals and film industry people. He said there was somebody representing every feature film except for “Love on Delivery,” but they were able to set up a live Internet chat for the question-and-answer session after the screening with director Janus Metz.

Wilson said the organizers want to keep True/False a four-day festival in walking distance, and they aren’t interested in adding any more venues, especially any outside of the downtown radius.

It’s too soon to tell what improvements will need to be made for next year, but Wilson said there were a couple of changes this year that kept the festival running smoothly.

“We had the Missouri Theatre back up. It gave us a lot more breathing room in terms of our numbers and our audiences. We were able to have full houses all weekend long, but not bursting at the seams,” he said.

Wilson is especially happy with how the box office was organized this year. In previous years, the box office was at the Cherry Street Artisan. However, this year it was moved to the neighboring building, called the Artisan Annex.

“We moved the box office over to a bigger space. We came up with some new stuff in terms of crowd management at the box office and I think that people in general were very, very happy with both how smoothly that ran and how easy it was to get to see movies,” he said.

Wilson said the festival cost “somewhere in the ballpark of $400,000” and they are still waiting to see if they made their budget.


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