Under construction: Sedona Film Festival expansion underway


Patrick Schweiss, Executive Director of SIFF, poses for a photo outside the box office and construction site on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. (Kudos / Vyto Starinskas)

SEDONA – Local celluloid heroes have donated over $ 2 million for the second act of the Sedona International Film Festival.

The film festival is building a second screen and a small cinema adjacent to its current home, the Mary D. Fisher Theater on State Route 89A in West Sedona.

The screen at the new Alice Gill-Sheldon Theater won’t come out of sawdust and two-by-fours until spring.

However, the 28th Sedona International Film Festival will return to the Mary D. Fisher Theater during its initial February period as construction on the second theater continues, according to Patrick Schweiss, executive director of SIFF.

The Fisher itself will be open to customers again starting December 26.

The total budget for the new Alice Gill-Sheldon theater project was $ 2.25 million, which included a maintenance fund of half a million dollars, Schweiss said.

“We are very fortunate to have an anonymous million dollar donor who believed in our future,” said Schweiss. Donations kicked off the dream process for a second screen.

Other major donors have given “$ 40,000 here, $ 50,000 there, $ 30,000 here,” Schweiss said. “We have already raised $ 2.125 million.”

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But SIFF hasn’t always had its own theater and screen, explained Schweiss, who has run the 28-year-old festival for 17 years.

In 2012, they raised funds to open the Fisher Theater. Prior to that, they screened films at other theaters around the city, such as the Sedona Performing Arts Center at Sedona Red Rock High School and Harkins Theaters Sedona 6.

Having its own theater has allowed SIFF to show films year round. “At four o’clock, seven o’clock every day, there’s a movie here, except when we’re closed for construction,” Schweiss said.

SIFF will be able to broadcast a Mary D. Fisher film on the screen and a music or dance production on the Alice Gill-Sheldon screen at the same time, he said, giving customers a choice.

“We don’t bring the same films that Harkins brings,” Schweiss said.

SIFF is a special event cinema, operas, ballets, national theater and on-screen Shakespeare productions. “We are much more than an ordinary theater,” he said.

The program includes narrative feature films, documentary feature films, foreign films, short films, animated films, student films and special programs as well as a diverse selection of workshops.

“Our donors and members love what we do,” he said. The only way to expand is to add a second screen.

Alice and Alan Shelden made a generous donation to secure the naming rights for the new theater, Schweiss said.

The fund means that SIFF will be able to set aside this fund and live off its interest.

Mary Fischer will be fully operational for the film festival in February with the new concession stand, which will arrive in January, he said.

They met with theater consultants to find what they could adapt to their rented property’s footprint, and they came up with a “beautiful 46-seat theater,” Schweiss said.

The Fischer had 112 seats but will now be reduced to 99 seats as they added an aisle.

At the same time, they decided to do a complete renovation of the concession stand to offer all kinds of concession products, which will include popcorn, wine and beer.

The COVID-related adjustments moved the 27th annual festival last June and included a virtual option, which will not be offered during the 2022 event.

“We will always be careful for the safety of our customers, staff and volunteers,” Schweiss said of the four theaters where 150 films will be shown.

He said the festival would put “people back to theaters to see films the way they should, on screen.”

Email Vyto Starinskas at [email protected] or call 928-634-2241, ext. 6031.


Gerald R. Schneider