Madison movie fans, brace yourselves: Major changes are in store for the Wisconsin Film Festival, the city's annual orgy of cinephilia.
The 2013 fest will be longer. Slated to begin Thursday, April 11, it will last eight days, up from this year's five.
And it won't be downtown. Unlike at past festivals, no screenings will take place at central-city venues such as the Orpheum Theatre, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Bartell Theatre and Monona Terrace. The UW campus contains three 2013 festival venues: 4022 Vilas Hall, the primary home of UW Cinematheque; Union South's Marquee; and the Chazen Museum of Art, which will host events in two screening rooms. Other screenings will take place in three rooms at Sundance Cinemas Madison, located at Hilldale Mall on the city's west side. Sundance made its Wisconsin Film Festival debut last spring.
The lack of a large venue necessitated these changes, says Jim Healy, the festival's director of programming. The Orpheum's future is uncertain due to ongoing legal problems, and the Wisconsin Union Theater -- another big room that's a festival staple -- is closed for renovations until 2014. The Overture Center is booked until 2014.
"Without the Orpheum as an anchor, we were really concerned about the loss of audiences at other venues downtown," says Healy, who is also UW Cinematheque's director of programming.
Except for the old Chazen auditorium, all of the 2013 festival's rooms are permanently equipped to show films. This will limit expenses associated with setting up projection equipment.
The 2013 festival will last longer because SundanceCinemas requires a one-week commitment. Despite the extra days, Healy doesn't anticipate screening more titles.
"We wanted the opportunity to have TBA slots," he says. The longer festival "will give us a chance to repeat screenings of favorites that are sold out. And it will be an opportunity to show Audience Award winners before the end of the festival. Maybe a few surprises, too."
Healy is bullish about the festival's stronger ties with Sundance.
"We really enjoyed such a huge success with Sundance," he says of the 2012 festival. "We had something like 87% capacity."
But can Madison support an eight-day fest? Healy says yes.
"Most [film] festivals last eight days or more," he explains. "Chicago does a full two-week festival. We're very pleased with this opportunity to keep our events rolling, and I think it will feel even more like a festival."