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Moviegoers adapt to Md. Film Fest move

The 16th Maryland Film Festival began this week with cinephiles carefully mapping out their plans and cautiously optimistic that a move from the five-screen Charles Theatre to seven different locations would not crimp their style.

"I thought it would, but this was so easy," said Sharon Knox, who came to the festival's Tent Village on North Avenue on Thursday to buy tickets for three films. "Maybe being on North Avenue is a little more convenient than being restricted to that little corner of Charles Street where the Charles is."

Overall ticket sales were up "double-digits" over two years ago, festival head Jed Dietz said, although they were still behind last year's record-setting pace, when a strong crop of films with local connections led to a substantial increase in overall attendance.

As the first films started playing at 4 p.m. Thursday, festival officials reported a glitch: A shuttle system transporting filmgoers between venues was about a half-hour late getting started, Dietz said, because drivers were confused over the route.

Several measures were taken to help ease problems with the new locations. Some 400 volunteers were recruited to help with the festival, an increase of about 100 over last year. And tickets could be purchased at any of the seven venues for films playing at those locations; in previous years, tickets were available only at the festival box office in the Tent Village.

Kirsten Haley was at the University of Baltimore's Langsdale Auditorium on Thursday afternoon to see "Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari," about the Mari people of Russia.

"I actually work at the Charles, so I hate [the move], personally," she said. "But I guess it is better for different areas around Baltimore because the restaurants and stores will get more business. I thought this theater was really easy to get to. I did not have a problem."

The festival, which continues through Sunday, opened Wednesday night at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Brown Center with a program of five short films.

"I heard from all my filmmaker friends that this is the friendliest festival to filmmakers," said Annie Silverstein, whose short film, "Skunk," was playing as part of a program of dramatic shorts on Thursday and today. "And it's obvious that is a true statement."

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