The world’s largest Jewish film festival did something different this year: It failed to break its own attendance record.
A year after posting total attendance of more than 38,600 to claim the title of world’s largest from the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival saw attendance at the 16th annual festival decline about 6.5 percent to 36,092.
“This downturn was anticipated due primarily to reduced seating capacity at our anchor venue, Lefont Sandy Springs, where recent remodeling forced us into small auditoriums,” festival Executive Director Kenny Blank said.
He said ticket sales as a percentage of seating capacity remained consistent with previous years, showing the continuing strong community support for the festival.
“Short- and long-term plans are being developed to increase seating capacity to meet demand for 2017 and beyond,” Blank said, adding that the festival’s comprehensive annual debriefing in the next few weeks will help the staff understand audience demographics and satisfaction rates and will contribute to the planning for the 17th festival, whose dates will be announced later this year.
The film festival held 184 screenings, including 15 encore showings, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 17.
“We invite everyone who attended AJFF to complete the online audience survey at ajff.org/2016survey,” Blank said.
Initial feedback indicates high audience approval for the audience experience with seating, ticket sales and customer care and for the quality of the films.
“We continue to grow the lineup of films we show each year, but we obviously want to ensure the quality remains as high as it always has been,” Blank said. “I’ve been really pleased to hear from our audience that we achieved that mark, especially in a year when we had more short films than ever before and our largest number of screenings in our history.”
The decline in attendance leaves the door open for San Francisco to reclaim its longtime title as the biggest Jewish film festival in the world. San Francisco has drawn about 35,000 filmgoers annually the past few years. Its 36th festival is scheduled for July 21 to Aug. 7.
“Our first priority continues to be a world-class audience experience,” Blank said. “We continue to be stunned and honored just how enthusiastic our audience is, but the size of the audience is secondary to the quality of their time at the festival. That is our challenge going forward: to make each and every one of those audience members feel like AJFF was the best time they’ve ever had in a movie theater.”