The film industry in Iowa continues to pick up both speed and interest.
That's despite the fact that effective Jan. 1, 2012, the Iowa legislature repealed the state's Film, Television and Video Promotion Project, a tax incentive program for filmmakers to shoot movies in Iowa.
In Dubuque this weekend, the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival expects to bring thousands of people to the area.
Festival co-founder Michael Coty said he and co-founder Christopher Kulovitz estimate the event brought more than 3,000 people to Dubuque last year. The team hopes to double that this year.
All day on Monday, festival organizers were at the Julien Hotel in downtown Dubuque, setting up the box office for this weekend's event.
"The level of interest that we have this year is outstanding," Coty said. "The calls we've been getting, the emails -- there's definitely a buzz in town this year because I think people know what to expect, or what to anticipate at least."
The festival is screening this year's 69 films at 15 local venues, all within a several-block area of Lower Main Street in downtown Dubuque.
"The great thing about this festival is you can grab a drink, grab a meal, see a movie, go hit up another show, go to one of our anchor events, and it's all within walking distance," Kulovitz said.
That brings dollars into local businesses, such as repeat festival venue Stam.
"The business that it brings is unbelievable," Stam's owner Paula Teig said. "The traffic it brings and then the repeat customers that have showed up in town for the film festival -- they'll come back, sometimes later in the year, for other things."
She said last year's festival boosted business by 40 percent compared to an average weekend.
Organizers say the festival's success last year and increased interest ahead of this year's event would not be possible if eastern Iowa's film industry weren't growing.
Seven or eight of the festival's 69 films are locally produced, Kulovitz said.
"We have a lot of local films that were made here that we tried to include into the festival this year to showcase local filmmakers," he said.
In the past year, four local film industry-related companies set up offices in one building in downtown Dubuque, an indicator that the interest in local filmmaking is on the rise.
Dubuque isn't the only city in Iowa with a film festival. Coming up in 2013 there will be festivals in Mason City, Iowa City, Tipton and Des Moines, among other cities.
Dubuque's Convention and Visitors Bureau president Keith Rahe said the Dubuque area's strongest tourism months are June through October, so any event -- such as the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival -- planned outside that time span makes a big, positive impact on the local economy.
The festival's honorary chair this year is actor Gary Busey, who is currently a contestant on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice."
For information on the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival tickets and screenings, click here.
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