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American Cinematographer (1976) - Filmex '76 scores its greatest success




In its sixth year, The Los Angeles International Film Exposition stages its most spectacular show, features its most ambitious program, attracts its largest audience and, for the first time ever, winds up in the black

In classic Hollywood tradition, the silver shafts of searchlights scanned the night skies.

In the elegant, futuristic Plaza of the ABC Entertainment Center at Los Angeles' Century City, crowds gathered and watched spellbound as a truly spectacular extravaganza unfolded.

Clowns cavorted; the resplendent marching band of the University of Southern California did its flamboyant thing; in thirtyish finery, ballroom dance teams of the Rogers‑Astaire ilk swung and swayed; bright‑eyed Busby Berkeley types tippy‑tapped their way into your heart.

Mummers in Colonial costume paid tribute to the American Bicentennial, as 1,776 multi‑colored balloons soared heavenward. Dressed‑to‑the‑teeth movie stars arrived in their limousines and swept grandly up the staircase. An old‑fashioned hearse pulled up and a coffin was carried into the Plaza. It was opened to reveal film cans containing the reels of Alfred Hitchcock's "FAMILY PLOT", to be World Premiered within the hour. Next, Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock themselves arrived and were seated where they could get an excellent view of the climactic spectacle: hundreds of colorful fireworks and sky rockets set off from the tops of the twin triangular towers soaring above the Plaza.

The ever‑smiling usherette, Blanche, ready with tickets, a flashlight and munchies served as a symbol and official "mascot" of FILMEX 76.

The elegant, futuristic ABC Entertainment Center at Los Angeles' Century City again served as the site for FILMEX. Putt's Century Plaza Theatres 1 and 2 were kept busy with screenings from 11 a.m. until two the next morning for 17 days. The posh Century Plaza hotel, directly across the "Avenue of the Stars" from the theatres, was the location for the gala Benefit Ball, held after the world Premiere screening of Alfred Hitchcock's "FAMILY PLOT".

Thus it was that, on the evening of March 21, in a burst of Hollywood hoopla and hyperbole harking back to the twenties and thirties, FILMEX kicked off what was to be by far its most successful stanza.

The 1976 Los Angeles International Film Exposition (FILMEX 76) attracted the largest audience in its history during the 17‑day non‑competitive event which was held March 21‑April 6 at the ABC Entertainment Center in Century City. Originally scheduled as a 15‑day event, the Exposition was extended two days to accommodate repeat showings of sold‑out films and additional programs. Films were screened at Putt's Century Plaza Theatres 1 and 2 in the Entertainment Center; other Filmex events were held at the Century Plaza hotel and adjacent facilities. Gary Essert, Filmex Director, announced that 100,000 people (actual count: 99,861) attended the 105 separate events during the Exposition, which included 255 films representing 30 nations. Average audience size increased from 76% to 84% of theatre capacity.

Preliminary financial information indicates total ticket sales income of $200,000 ($122,000 from general ticket sales and $78,000 from the Opening Night Filmex Society Benefit‑Ball) and $181,000 from other sources (including Filmex Society membership contributions, and grants from the City of Los Angeles, Atlantic Richfield Company, Deluxe Laboratories, Motown Productions, S.E.A. Metaxa Distilleries, The Bing Fund, and The National Endowment for the Arts), bringing the total revenues to date to $381,000. Expenses are estimated at $380,000, indicating a "break‑even" situation for the first time since the annual Exposition began in 1971.

Total accumulated liabilities have been reduced this year by $86,000, from $212,000 to $126,000 through a program of payments and debt compromises. Current operating costs, however, combined with the accumulated liabilities, represent continuing financial problems for the organization. The accumulated liabilities are a result of Filmex' policy of maintaining low ticket prices while producing a high quality event.

Twenty‑three films received their American premieres: two films from Denmark, TAKE IT LIKE A MAN, MADAM! (TA' DET SOM EN MAND, FRUE!), directed by "The Red Sisters" (Mette Knudsen, Li Vilstrup, Elizabeth Rygaard) and GOOD AND EVIL (DET GODE OG DET ONDE), by Joergen Leth; two films from IRAN, THE STRANGER AND THE FOG, directed by Bahram Beyzai and PRINCE EHTEDJAB, directed by Bahman Farmanara; two West Indian films, SMILE ORANGE from Jamaica, directed by Trevor Rhone, and Hugh A. Robertson's BIM from Trinidad; from the Netherlands, Paul Verhoeven's KEETJE TIPPEL and Adriaan Ditvoorst's FLANAGAN; and Hans‑Jurgen Syberberg's KARL MAY from the Federal Republic of Germany. Additional American premieres included Francesco Rosi's THE CONTEXT (CADAVERI ECCELLENTI) from Italy; THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS from Greece, directed by Theodores Angelopoulos; a BeIgium/France/Tunisia co‑production THE SON OF AMR IS DEAD(LE FILS D'AMR EST MORT!), directed by JeanJacques Andrien; Waierian Borowczyk's Polish film, THE STORY OF SIN (DZIEJE GRZECHU); from Sweden, THE GARAGE (GARAGET), directed by Vilgot Sjoman; from the Soviet Union, Akira Kurosawa's Academy Award‑winning film, DERSU UZALA, APHONYA, directed by Georgy Daneliya, and THE BONUS, directed by Sergei Mikaelyan; two films from France, Henri Glaeser's ONCE UPON ANDREA (TOUS A POIL ET QUO'ON EN FINISSEI), and THE JUDGE AND THE KILLER (LE JUGE ET L'ASSASSIN), directed by Bertrand Tavernier; from Czechoslovakia, THE BLACK‑FEATHER GANG (DRUZINA CERNEHO PERA) by Ota Koval; and from Hong Kong A TOUCH OF ZEN (SHA‑NU) by King Hu. The most recent films in the Tribute to Cuban Cinema were also American premieres, YOU HAVE THE LAST WORD (USTEDES TIENEN LA PALABRA) by Manuel Octavio Gomez, and THE MAN FROM MAISINICU (EL HOMBRE DE MAISINICU) by Manuel Ferez.

(ABOVE LEFT) In the Plaza of the Center, an hour before the Premiere screening, a spectacular show presented many colorful characters. (RIGHT) The famous Hitchcock profile depicted in fireworks. (BELOW LEFT) A banner was presented officially designating FILMEX as a participant in the American Bicentennial celebration. (RIGHT) Colorful, though slightly tangle‑footed, soldiers of the American Revolution parade the nation's several early flags.

Six world premieres included Alfred Hitchcock's FAMILY PLOT, which opened FILMEX '76, the Academy Award‑nominated documentary THE CALIFORNIA REICH, directed by Walter Parkes and Keith Critchlow, Neil Israel's TUNNELVISION, THUNDERCRACK by Curt McDowell and George Kuchar, Arturo Ripstein's FOXTROT and Michael Ritchie'sTHE BAD NEWS BEARS, which closed the Exposition.

Twenty‑four programs sold out, including the Sneak Preview of lngmar Bergman's FACE TO FACE produced by Dino DeLaurentiis and starring Liv Ullmann. Seven of the sold‑out programs were repeated, including DERSU UZALA, THE PROMISED LAND (which was also nominated for the Academy Award) directed by Andrzej Wajda, CHRONICLE OF THE YEARS OF EMBERS (also nominated) from Algeria, directed by Mohamed Lakhdar‑Hamina, and EXHIBITION, directed by Jean‑Francois Davy from France.

A major highlight of FILMEX '76 was the 48‑hour Cowboy Movie Marathon and "Cow Person" Contest, won by wrangler Wayne Storm, who was in attendance as Marathon Grand Marshal for the 48‑hour Classic Western fete. The Marathon was sponsored by Motown Productions.

A Special Tribute to Mary Pickford was introduced by Kirk Douglas, and Jack Nicholson presented a silver certificate to Maxine Elliott Hicks (accepting for Miss Pickford). Miss Hicks appeared in 1916 with Miss Pickford in POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL. The films presented included two full‑length features, SPARROWS and REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM (which was accompanied by a 20‑piece orchestra under the direction of Lyn Murray), and the short film, THE NEW YORK HAT.

Film star Charlton Heston chais with FILMEX Director Gary Essert (left) and Assistant Director Gary Abrahams at the Benefit Ball. It was the early vision of these two young men, combined with much hard work and a lot of help from their friends that ultimately led to the current preeminence of FILMEX among the world's foremost film events.

Thirty free shows were offered at Filmex 76, including two film series entitled "The Americans: A National Portrait" and "Classic American Clowns" (which were sponsored by the City of Los Angeles and Atlantic Richfield Company), and "Social Reflections", a highly popular series of documentaries.

Other major attractions included a retrospective of Frederick Wiseman's films; a Tribute to George Pal; an extensive examination of the experimental film, featuring the work of Stan Brakhage, made possible by grants from the Bing Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts; and a survey of recent student films.

A towering inferno. A fantastic display of fireworks atop the twin towers of the ABC Entertainment Center climaxed the show that kicked off this year's Exposition. No other world film event can touch FILMEX for sheer showmanship and the evocation of the zany, exciting, magic days of the early Hollywood.

A series of eight "Midnight Monster Movies" was sponsored by Deluxe Laboratories.

A special series of five Cuban films was also presented, including MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT, YOU HAVE THE LAST WORD, THE MAN FROM MAISINICU, THE NEW SCHOOL, AND BAY OF PIGS. A unique graphics exhibit of 100 original Cuban film posters was displayed in conjunction with the series.

A three‑day Producers Conference, which was underwritten by S.E.A. Metaxa Distilleries, examined the many‑faceted role of the producer in film and TV production trends in the U.S. and Europe. The Advisory Committee included Robert Chartoff, Tony Bill, Lillian GaIIo, Leonard Goldberg, Robert Radnitz and Robert Wise. Arthur Knight was the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. Participants in the Conference included 36 of the industry's major producers and filmmakers.

Pauline Kael, renowned American film critic, delivered an appraisal of the state of the movies followed by a lively discussion with a sold‑out house of enthusiastic fans.

The Filmex Society Benefit‑Ball, following the world premiere of Alfred Hitchcock's FAMILY PLOT, was attended by a diverse assemblage of celebrities, including Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston, William Wyler, Eva Marie Saint, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Falk, John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Cloris Leachman, Henry Winkler, Rosalind Russell, George Jessel, Irene Dunne, Diane von Furstenberg, Barry Diller, Dionne Warwick, Helen Reddy, clay Felker, Bruce Dern, Geoffrey Holder, Carol Kane, Edie and Lew Wasserman, Dr. and Mrs. Jules Stein, and Kitty Hawks, among others.

Wendy Goldberg, Filmex Society President, coordinated the gala at which Mr. Hitchcock was presented the first Filmex Award for excellence in filmmaking. Opening Night activities, which were sponsored by Lufthansa German Airlines, were planned and produced by Robert R. Bennett.

Some of the major filmmakers among the 175 participants in attendance included Bertrand Tavernier, Andrzej Wajda, HansJurgen Syberberg, Henri Glaeser, Jean‑Claude Brialy, Hugh Robertson, Georgy Daneliya, Michael Ritchie, Robert Wise, William Wyler, and DeIbert Mann.

The 1976 Los Angeles International Film Exposition was dedicated to Adolph Zukor, who celebrates his 104th birthday this year. The Exposition is presented annually by The Filmex Society in association with the City of Los Angeles and with the cooperation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the film schools of UCLA, USC, Cal‑Arts and Loyola. The next Exposition is scheduled for March 15 ‑ 31,1977.