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Maryland Film Festival makes a new home in Station North

Grumblings seemed few as the 16th Maryland Film Festival wrapped up Sunday, having weathered a forced relocation to North Avenue and other nearby areas.

"I've been really enjoying it," cinephile Greg Golinski said Saturday, about halfway through his planned 12-film visit to the festival. The event brought 50 feature films, 10 shorts programs, dozens of filmmakers and thousands of film lovers to Baltimore for the weekend. "Integrating it more into Station North, it's been fun," Golinski said of the move.

Although kicked out of its longtime home at the nearby Charles Theatre, whose operators said they felt it made more economic sense to maintain their regular film schedule than to rent out their five screens for the festival's duration, Maryland Film Festival officials scrambled to find other venues for the annual celebration of all things cinematic. With its main box office and headquarters relocated to North Avenue and films being shown at the Maryland Institute College of Art, University of Baltimore, Walters Art Museum and the Windup Space on North Avenue, audiences seemed to adapt readily to the change.

"I've been to all the venues, and it's going to be fine," three-festival veteran Greg Pasay said as he jumped on his bike after buying tickets for nine films. "It's actually as good as it ever was."

As of Sunday afternoon, only a few minor glitches had marred the weekend. They included a slow start for the festival's shuttle system on Thursday's opening day, as drivers accustomed themselves with the route. Then Saturday's rainstorm left some attendees grousing momentarily about having to travel between venues, when in past years almost all of the films were shown under one roof.

But overall, the weekend's mood proved upbeat.

"This festival is amazing," director Josephine Decker said after a Saturday afternoon screening of her film, "Thou Wast Mild and Lovely," played at MICA's Lazarus Graduate Studio Center on North Avenue. "The audiences here are the best. You can always feel how the audiences are responding. People get jokes and are into the film and stay the whole time. It's been awesome."

Festival director Jed Dietz acknowledged being apprehensive going into this year's festival about how people would react to the change of venues. Ticket sales, however, were on a pace to exceed 2012, he said, and were just a little behind the 2103 total, when a strong slate of Baltimore-centric films made for record attendance. This year's attendance also bodes well for 2016, he said, when the film festival anticipates moving into year-round headquarters at an expanded and renovated Parkway Theatre at Charles Street and North Avenue.

"We worried a little bit about the change," Dietz said, "people having to move around Station North, and that seems like it's going just beautifully."

He went on to say: "People have really enjoyed it. They found things to do that they didn't know were here, gotten to know Station North better. We had hundreds of people at midnight coming out of the Tent Village at a free screening, and Station North looked relaxed and welcoming. And that is great."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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