LEWISTON — In only its second year, the recent Lewiston Auburn Film Festival drew more than $220,000 into the community, selling meals and booking hotel rooms almost as fast as it sold tickets to its movies.
"I know that we probably didn't create any extra jobs, but we probably created a whole lot of extra shifts," festival director Joshua Shea said Tuesday after tallying the results of a survey that followed the three-day festival that ended on April 15.
More than half of the event's 1,200-plus attendees said they spent at least $100 during the weekend. And more than 10 percent estimated they spent more than $400.
"A lot of those are dollars that came into the community," Shea said. "It's not just being recirculated."
Shea and other festival leaders announced next year's dates: April 5, 6 and 7. They also talked about hiring the young festival's first paid, part-time staff and launched plans for a student film festival.
If filmmakers are preparing a movie in New England for production this year, they ought to be thinking of bringing it to next year's festival, Shea said.
"I would hope that after two years, we're on the radar," he said. "I think this is a great place to show your movie."
In its inaugural year, the 2011 festival lasted one day and showed about 100 films. This year's three-day festival screened fewer films — about 80 in all — in nine locations. There were panel discussions, parties and an awards gala. And it was kicked off with a concert by "American Pie" singer-songwriter Don McLean.
The group is already searching a big draw for next year, said Sandra Marquis, chairwoman of the festival's board of directors.
"There will be surprises," she promised.
It may not be a world-famous musical act, though.
"I see something with a big name, whether that's a film night, a concert or a dramatic reading," Shea said. "I've got my wish list."
The most immediate step for the group is to reach out to schools for the student competition, which they hope will draw submissions from kids in high school and even younger. They hope to get fliers into local schools before the end of May.
As conceived, the competition would be held in two phases over next winter. Marquis and Shea hope sponsors who can offer modest prizes in the form of scholarships will sign on. The best films would be screened at the main festival.
"If a high school junior or senior gets excited and finds something they like, it could drastically change their life," Shea said. "We want to provide opportunities."
In the coming months, opportunities for part-time work might also be going to people who can handle some of the festival's jobs. The event's scale is becoming too big to rely entirely on the kindness of volunteers.
"We can't put in this time for years in a row without people burning out," Shea said. "We are looking to build this to be like most professional film festivals."
The success of the first two years — each of which ended with a profit — should help build the festival's reputation, too.
Sponsorship director Paul Roy plans to use all they have learned to encourage more investment. For every dollar spent on the festival, the result was around $8.25 into the local economy, he said.
“In challenging economic times, it’s great to see that people will still pay for a weekend of quality entertainment, and it’s even better that so much money was spread throughout our community,” Marquis said.