WATERVILLE — City business leaders are bracing for a boost in economic activity downtown as the 10-day Maine International Film Festival prepares to get underway Friday in a new consolidated location at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center.

“We’re super excited to have a large concentration of people downtown,” said Jason Furchak, co-owner of Holy Cannoli, an eatery on Waterville’s Main Street, on Wednesday. “It’s a real test of what our downtown is supposed to be.”

For years, the festival, known also by the acronym MIFF, has screened some 100 films at several locations across the region, including at the Waterville Opera House, the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, and at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre. MIFF draws thousands of film enthusiasts to the region, but with its events scattered, the economic impact hasn’t been felt that keenly downtown, some business owners said Wednesday.

“When it was further it didn’t bring a lot of people here,” said David Spinney-Porter, co-owner of Incense & Peppermints, a candy and gift store Spinney-Porter and his husband opened six years ago on Main Street.

In MIFF’S 26th year, the festival has now found a permanent, consolidated home in the Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street, which is also connected by skywalk to the Waterville Opera House. The $18 million, 32,000-square-foot arts center was built by Colby College as part of a broader effort to revitalize downtown Waterville.

The celebration of Maine and international filmmaking is expected to draw thousands of people to downtown Waterville to stay, shop and eat while enjoying the festival.


“We’re really excited to welcome people to our new home, and in person,” Mike Perreault, the festival’s executive director, said Wednesday. “The Maine Film Center has three state-of-the art theaters, it’s connected directly to the opera house … it’s going to be just a hub of activity for people who love movies and the arts in general.”

The Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville, seen here at nighttime in December, will be the central location for screenings of this year’s Maine International Film Festival. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The arts center, which opened this past winter, houses the Waterville Opera House, the Maine Film Center, and Ticonic Gallery and Studios. With a centralized box office and a single set of staff, Perreault said that it hasn’t been too challenging to adapt this festival into the new space.

Festivalgoers should find it a lot easier to see many movies in a single day at the center, Perreault said, adding that consolidating MIFF’s operations will also be a positive ripple effect on area businesses.

“We hope people can explore the Central Maine area, support our local businesses, have an adventure, and then also come to the movies and be transformed in that way as well,” said Perreault.

Anticipating the increased exposure, the co-owners of Holy Cannoli said Wednesday they will be extending their business hours to 7 p.m. each day.

At the Lockwood Hotel on Main Street, a two-minute walk from the festival’s new home, interim General Manager John Phillips-Sandy said they have already seen a significant increase in bookings for the coming days, and expect even more people to check in once the festival begins.


Production Assistant Audrey Loo, left, assists Gail Kromer, at the counter as Kromer and Nancy Young, right, made their plans Wednesday to attend the Maine International Film Festival while visiting the Ed Harris Box Office. The box office is at the Maine Film Center, which is housed inside the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Last year, we saw great crowds coming in,” said Phillips-Sandy of when only the Lockwood’s restaurant, Front and Main, was open. “Now that we have the hotel open as well … that’s just really exciting.”

The festival kicks off Friday with a screening of a new feature film from Maine, “Hangdog,” at 7 p.m. Another three film screenings and a rock concert will take place on Friday, and 15 more films will be shown Saturday. The festival concludes on Sunday, July 16.

This Sunday, after a string of screenings and events, the festival will honor one of its two special guests, Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi, with the “Mid-life Achievement Award.” Enyedi has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, Perreault said. She also served as the jury chair for the short film competition at Cannes this year.

The festivals’ other special guest is Bill Morrison, an archivist and filmmaker who will have a threefold exhibition of his work shown during the festival next week on Thursday and Friday. In part, Perreault said, Morrison’s work is being screened at MIFF in anticipation of an upcoming exhibition of his work at the Colby Museum of Art in August.

The full festival schedule, ticket information and related details can be found at miff.org.

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