TRAVERSE CITY – Let the lines and shuttle buses begin. Bring on the 150 films and 200 screenings.
The 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival opened Tuesday night at the State Theatre and City Opera House for hundreds of film fans willing to pay $50 to see two opening night screenings of Woody Allen’s new movie, “Blue Jasmine.” Both venues sold out early.
Special guest of the evening was actor Michael Stuhlbarg, a cast member whose film credits include “Lincoln,” “Seven Psychopaths,” “Hugo” and "Men in Black.” He introduced the movie and also stayed for a question-and-answer session afterward.
“He’s spent the last two hours walking around Traverse City and can’t believe he’s not in a time tunnel or on a Hollywood set,” festival founder Michael Moore told the boisterous audience in his opening remarks at the State.
Moore also treated the audience to a 1913 short-short called “On to Washington,” before “Blue Jasmine" began. The 80-second film focused on 14 suffragettes who walked from Newark, N.J., to the nation’s capital to call attention to their effort to win voting rights for U.S. women.
The other big opening-day event was in front of the State Theatre, where Moore and Rotary Charities executive director Marsha Smith burned the theater’s mortgage in a metal pail as 300-400 Rotary members looked on. The burning symbolizes that the Film Festival officially owns the State Theatre.
“Thank you for your faith and trust in us,” Moore told the Rotarians as the short outdoors ceremony began. “I hope you all know the role you played.”
It took two lighters and hundreds of laughs to get the job done. When Moore’s metal lighter failed to spark, someone offered him another. Within seconds the document ignited over the pail.
Rotary Charities and Moore also unveiled a plaque that will become part of a historical marker at the State in the spring. It read, “This building donated by Rotary Charities of Traverse City to the Traverse City Film Festival."