EXCLUSIVE: No Film Fest for Philly

BY VICTOR FIORILLO

Thanks to an intense rift between longtime Philadelphia Film Festival honcho and TLA Entertainment CEO Ray Murray and the festival’s co-presenters at the Philadelphia Film Society, it looks like all you movie lovers will have to turn to Netflix to get your film fill this spring.

The drama started back in December when Murray, frustrated with certain members of the PFS board that he describes as “elitist and shockingly Republican,” walked away from the project after more than seven years, taking his plethora of film contacts and several defectors with him. “There’s a Main Line group that wants to see a smaller, more boutiquey, Hamptons/Telluride type of festival,” says Murray. “But film is a popular art. It’s for people from the Main Line and the Northeast.”

Despite the break, PFS forged ahead, announcing a March 26th opening date for this year’s event. Murray quickly filed suit against the PFS for money he says they owe him and announced his own festival, CineFest, — also for March 26th. Earlier this week, it looked like the PFS festival would be canceled, since there’s really not room for two festivals, and since Murray was the guy with the know-how and connections.

But then on Wednesday came talk of a settlement that would have united the two sides for one last Philadelphia Film Festival. Alas, terms proved elusive, and today PFS informed Murray’s team that a countersuit would be forthcoming, possibly preventing CineFest from taking place at all. “It is war,” declares Murray, who adds, “We are probably going to have to cancel [CineFest].”

Andy Greenblatt, executive director of the Philadelphia Film Society, says, “I am very disappointed that this settlement is not working out, as I think the loss of the spring festival is deeply unfortunate for Philadelphia.” We couldn’t agree more.

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