Rehoboth film festival: A tragic loss

May 1, 2014

As stated in a letter from the Rehoboth Beach Film Society to its members, the owners of Movies at Midway are pulling the plug on their support of the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival “because of conflicting contractual obligations relating to its regular film programming.” The letter goes on to say, “2014 is the last year it [Movies at Midway] will rent theaters for the film festival.” I love the film festival in its unequaled, one place for all movies format, and this loss has left me sad. In 2014 the number of theaters dedicated to the festival will be cut from eight to four, and then, in 2015, no theaters will be offered! None. Gone. Nada. Shock and disbelief have stunned me into depression. I want to punch something.

The Rehoboth Beach film festival has evolved since 1998 into a unique, world-class cultural event. The current location under one multiplex roof with a tent as a focal point for food and discussion of the movies, and a parking area large enough to accommodate all the cars, makes for a perfect physical setting. Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca are severely limited by venues that are scattered over large areas, making transportation and movie scheduling difficult. Yes, our festival is indeed unique, but we will no longer be indulged by a convenient one-stop shop. Convenience. Convenience. Convenience.

Year round I anticipate the fulfillment from different, varied world views and cultures - a classroom that teaches about racism, religions, political corruption and activism, causes for environmental change, love stories, human stories overcoming obstacles (or not), stories expanding on narrowminded views. Stories that make me laugh, cry and yell out, “hurrah.” Oh yes, and a few that make me want to “boo.” Stories that wobble my biases and hone my understandings. Music, biographies, sports, dance. The festival gives me a reprieve from the stresses of daily life. An escape. An education in a vibrant, convenient classroom.

Aside from the intellectual and esthetic losses, the economic loss to the Rehoboth, Milton and Lewes communities will be significant - over 19,133 seats filled and 59 sellouts last year! I stood in line with a lady who drove from Michigan just to experience the event, and kibitzed with many other out-of-towners under the tent as we grabbed a sandwich and beverage between movies. The loss of the festival as we know it will lead to a significant economic loss to hotels, restaurants, shops - a reduction of income to every chamber of commerce in the area. So, we all take a hit, a solid punch to the gut.

Richard Palmer, MD

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