Philadelphia Film Festival canceled, CineFest lives

A fight between Philadelphia Film Festival boss and TLA Entertainment owner Ray Murray and the Philadelphia Film Society has led to the cancelation of the 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival, Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo reported late this afternoon.

However, at 5:25  (this is an updated post)  Murray tells us he now plans to go ahead with the Philadelphia CineFest March 26 through April 6. “We have two hundred films, we have guests who are supposed to come, guests who are supposed to get awards,”­Murray told us this evening. Making the battle more awkward, Murray notes, is the fact that TLA (for whom in the past we wrote on a freelance basis) and the PFS share the same floor in the same Market Street building. Murray decided to move ahead with the festival after getting off a phone call with his lawyer who said if PFS aren’t doing a festival, they have no grounds to complain about TLA presenting one. He’ll be working all weekend writing his final blurbs for the festival guide and says to check for updates. “This is something I’ve been working on for so long I don’t want to see it die,” he said. "We’ve cut out a lot of the receptions and parties, the real money-losing things. Just show the movies," he said.

According to Fiorillo’s report, the problems began in December when Murray, angry with certain PFS members, walked away from the festival he’s overseen for years, taking his contacts and some loyalists with him. “There’s a Main Line group that wants to see a smaller, more boutiquey, Hamptons/Telluride type of festival,” Murray told Fiorillo. “But film is a popular art. It’s for people from the Main Line and the Northeast.”  The Philadelphia Film Society had announced a March 26 opening date for the Philadelphia Film Festival, was then sued by Murray, who planned his CineFest, and the PFS later said it would countersue, and after last-ditch efforts to reunite, the factions remain split.

Andrew Greenblatt, executive director of the Philadelphia Film Society, told Fiorillo, “I am very disappointed that this settlement is not working out, as I think the loss of the spring festival is deeply unfortunate for Philadelphia.”

UPDATED 2/16/09:  Greenblatt says the Philadelphia Film Festival is not canceled, but it is likely postponed. He hopes to stage it in the fall.  “We have not yet confirmed dates for the fall, as we have not entirely given up on hosting the Philadelphia Film Festival in the Spring,”  Greenblatt told us yesterday.