‘CUT!’ Tribeca Film Festival nixes free family fair

Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess. Last year’s Tribeca Family Fair. It returns April 25.

Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess.
The Tribeca Family Fair will not return this year.

BY DENNIS LYNCH

For the first time in its 15-year history, the Tribeca Film Festival will not host its annual family-oriented street fair after the event, according to organizers.

Festival organizers did not elaborate much on the decision, but said that the change was “part of our evolution.”

“We are shifting our family programming to increase opportunities for the community to participate in activities rooted in film,” organizers said in a statement.

Instead of the street fair, this year the festival will offer “more free films for families” — including a family film event in conjunction with ESPN with free screenings and sports activities at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on the first weekend of the festival, and a screening of Disney’s “Alladin” during the second weekend to celebrate the animated film’s 25th anniversary.

Locals can also check out free screenings through AT&T Free Film Friday on April 28, the statement said. The film festival itself runs from April 19–30.

Community Board 1 Tribeca Committee chairwoman Alice Blank said that in its early years, the street fair was a “fun, community-based event for Downtowners where one went to see friends, listen to neighborhood bands, eat in neighborhood restaurants and learn about community based groups and events,” and said she was sorry to see it go.

“Though those days of Old Tribeca are over, I regret seeing steps of any kind that reduce what is left of the diverse life and color of the neighborhood,” she said. “I’d love to see the festival organizers reconsider and help to keep the neighborhood community-based vibrancy it once had alive.”

The free Family Fair was a huge event for the community since the festival’s earliest days, when it provided a large-scale, family-oriented activity at a time when few such events were available in Lower Manhattan. Its heart was along Greenwich Street, where vendors offered a variety of food, activities, and games for locals.  There were also performances by acts such as Broadway’s Million Dollar Quartet and the Rockettes over the years. Many of the activities were geared towards children.

Some locals considered the festival-capping street fair as something of a payback to the community for hosting the days-long film festival that clogged the neighborhood’s normally streets with throngs of gawkers and paparazzi.

Ann Benedetto, president of the small business group Tribeca Alliance, said she was “disappointed” to hear the fair wouldn’t go on. It was a boon for local business and a way for businesses and her group to meet the community.

“It’s just a way for the community to be more connected, that’s really what will be missing, because this is such a community that revolves around families, and this is an opportunity to connect with community families,” she said.

Benedetto said that she was looking to start a family day through the Alliance itself, not as a response to the Film Festival’s decision, but just as another way to reach the community.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by investor Craig Hatkoff, producer Jane Rosenthal, and actor Robert DeNiro in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks to attract people to and revitalize the neighborhood. Like the Family Fair, the festival has grown in size and prestige each year.  2015 was its biggest year in terms of attendance in recent years — 467,000 people descended on Tribeca for the 12-day festival, over 30,000 more than attended the first festival, which ran only five days. Overall, 2007 saw the most attendees at over half a million, according to festival officials.

“Alladin” isn’t the only classic screening this year — although the others are decidedly not suitable for kids. Quentin Tarantino will be in town for a screening of “Reservoir Dogs,” Michael Moore for “Bowling for Columbine,” and DeNiro will reunite with the cast of “The Godfather” to close out the festival with a screening of the Mafia classic and its sequel.

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