Film festival, institute fold
By Johanna Love, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 3, 2008
Plummeting financial markets have hit home for culture-loving Jacksonites.
The Jackson Hole Film Institute closed its doors Tuesday following the nation’s worst single-day points drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday.
“Funding dried up pretty quickly because of what’s been going on with the financial markets,” said Todd Rankin, managing director of the Jackson Hole Film Festival, the primary program of the institute. “Even leading up to this summer’s festival, things were tight.”
The film festival had board and staff committed to raising a sizeable percentage of the full festival budget for 2009, estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million. To date, sponsors and support were in place for only about $300,000, and with the worsening national financial outlook, board members were not comfortable going forward, Rankin said. Even streamlining the festival to an $800,000 event didn’t seem feasible.
“As the economy worsened over the summer, things started getting pushed back a bit,” Rankin said. “When all this stuff hit a couple weeks ago, you pretty much erased it. There was so much wealth that was lost. The financial markets washed away everything very quickly. We didn’t think we could take the risk of bringing these joint-venture sponsors on. It seemed too risky in this market.”
Rankin said he and festival President Eben Dorros spoke on the telephone Sunday with one of the group’s board members and were pessimistic about the nonprofit’s future before Monday’s market meltdown.
The Jackson Hole Film Festival celebrated its fifth birthday during the event in June, when audience numbers reached 10,000, roughly the same size as the venerated Telluride festival.
“There was a ton of momentum behind it,” Rankin said.
But the fast-growing small festival was so dependent upon private donations, rather than tenured sponsorships, that it quickly turned belly up when donations dried up.
This year, the film festival launched its Global Insight Summit, a concept that turned the lens upon far-flung corners of the world and featured keynote speaker Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations.
Although Jackson Hole Film Festival “is gone,” Rankin said, he hopes the summit can live on somehow.
Frank Londy, owner of Jackson’s three cinemas and a member of the festival’s advisory committee, said he was saddened by the event’s demise.
“It was a great event,” Londy said, “and I think that Eben made a difference with it.”
Despite the worsening economic outlook, Londy said he expects movie attendance to remain strong.
“If you want to get out and you’re worried about the state of the world,” he said, “one of the few places you can go and have it be affordable is the movies.”
Rankin said the national market crisis could hurt other young nonprofits.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if other small organizations in Jackson have been hurting from this,” Rankin said. “We were vulnerable because our budget was relying on donations while we were getting sponsors and ticket revenue. In the end, when you talk about cash flow, the pipe went dry.”