The 2006 Santa Barbara International Film Festival is in full swing, and local businesses, law enforcement and parking garages are all dealing with the filmmakers and filmgoers flooding into downtown Santa Barbara.
The film festival, held annually in Santa Barbara since 1985, typically attracts a wide range of directors, actors, producers and moviegoers who stay in Santa Barbara for the duration of the event. This year’s festival runs from Feb. 2 to Feb. 12, and showcases films such as “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Mozart and the Whale.” Local law enforcement officials said the influx of festival attendees does not cause any major security problems, and representatives for downtown hotels and restaurants said the extra crowds visiting Santa Barbara are good for business.
Roberta Vaughan, assistant publicist for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, said this year’s event has experienced much higher attendance than past festivals.
“The festival has gotten a lot larger this year, and it’s not just tourists,” Vaughan said “There’s tons more staff and locals attending.”
Santa Barbara Police Dept. spokesman Lt. Paul McCaffrey said police are focusing on maintaining safe conditions downtown during the festival. He said the Police Dept. does not usually have major problems with people who come to Santa Barbara for the film festival.
“Generally, with an event like this, we look at years past to see if there has been any major problems with crowds or danger,” McCaffrey said. “It gives us an impression of what we’re going to see this year, and usually this is a pretty tame crowd. We don’t have many problems – most of the people are locals out to have a good time.”
Nadine Turner, director of sales for the Santa Barbara Hotel, said hotels in the downtown area gear up for the extra business even before the festival starts. She said she thinks the festival is especially good for business because people generally stay much longer for the festival than they do for other kinds of conferences and events.
“We really enjoy the added business,” Turner said. “February is historically a slow month for us – we rely on conferences to maintain our guest load, and since those usually only last two to three days it’s a real treat to have something like the festival to bring people here for 10 days or more.”
Turner said she does not think the large crowds pose much of a problem for local businesses. She said the festival’s attendees are easy to deal with, for the most part.
“In general, people are very positive,” Turner said. “There’s always a few minor problems, but most of the people coming through – locals and out-of-towners – are very patient.”
Ron Stapelmann, manager of Pascucci’s Restaurant on State Street, said business has increased considerably since the festival began. He said the restaurant’s staff is well equipped to handle the large crowds that come to eat there during the festival.
“It’s really nice when the events are at the Arlington,” Stapelmann said. “We get tons of people coming to eat. Just the other night, there was a big event there and we were packed. It’s not a burden at all. We’re servers – this is what we do.”
Jessica Aikerman, an attendant at a parking garage on Anacapa Street, said the parking facilities downtown are designed to accommodate large crowds. She said the festival generally makes things somewhat more difficult, but there has not been a major parking shortage since the event began.
“It’s been hectic,” Aikerman said. “There’s a lot of people trying to make their movie times and dinner dates and whatnot, but all in all we’re prepared well for it.”