LEWISTON — A one-day, truncated film festival can’t replace a three-day event that’s brought an estimated $220,000 to restaurants and hotels, but there was optimism Wednesday that the Emerge festival could start to bring the dollars and people back.

When organizers announced the official end to the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival on Tuesday after days of speculation following festival director Joshua Shea’s arrest, they also announced a new start: the Emerge Film Festival, coming June 14.

It was a “big bummer” to lose LAFF, said Fish Bones American Grill owner Paul Landry. The lost reservations he’ll likely make up; he was more concerned about the lost chance to expose more people to the area.

“I think the citizens of L-A and the surrounding area definitely welcome those folks into our community; I think they’d be inclined to come back,” Landry said. “Festivals like the Dempsey Challenge and the LAFF festival certainly appeal to people who have the money to stay in the hotels, eat in the nice restaurants.”

After the second LA Film Festival in 2012, Shea estimated the economic impact of the long weekend at $220,000, based on a survey of attendees.

Of the 1,200 ticket-holders, more than half spent at least $100 in the area and 10 percent spent more than $400.


The city had never separately measured its impact, but “LAFF certainly had a large impact on hotel room and restaurant sales,” Economic and Community Development Director Lincoln Jeffers said. “It brought a large number of people to the community, who would likely not otherwise be here, to celebrate film and what the other L-A has to offer.”

The new, one-day festival won’t spur as many overnight stays or meals out, but it will be designed with breaks between films so people can step out to grab a bite and potentially shop, said Chip Morrison, president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve got all these members all over town that benefit from people coming to town — we want people to see the town,” Morrison said. “It’ll be a jampacked day of film and activities. That’s nowhere near a five-day, three-venue event, but it’s a start.”

He said he was “absolutely blown away” by the number of people reaching out after news of the new festival came out.

“People I have not heard of, don’t know, are emailing me, calling me, ‘How can we help?'” Morrison said. “Some people have offered money already. It meant something to the community and it means something to the community that it has emerged.”

Landry said he was hopeful to see what could come from the new festival.

“Instead of being in the spring, it’s going to be in the early summer; I’m OK with that,” he said. “Lewiston needs events in the summertime, too.”


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