Updated 5:50 p.m. with festival comments

By Michael Jacobs / mjacobs@atljewishtimes.com

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Kenny Blank and Opening Night head Martha Jo Katz attend the 2015 opening Jan. 28.

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival no longer can claim it’s the second-largest Jewish film festival in the world.

Now it’s No. 1.

The 15th Atlanta festival, which closed Feb. 19, had total attendance of 38,631 for its 177 screenings of 65 films over 23 days, topping last fall’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival by more than 3,000 tickets.

San Francisco has the first of the world’s more than 100 Jewish film festivals. Since launching in 1981, it has always had the highest attendance.

But even with the boost of screenings during Shabbat, something the Atlanta festival does not do, San Francisco topped out at 35,000 tickets sold during its 2014 festival last summer.

“This is not only a proud moment for AJFF but for the entire Atlanta community. With thanks to our wildly enthusiastic audiences, highly dedicated staff and leadership, and extraordinarily generous sponsors, we have together created a centerpiece for Jewish life and culture, as well as a first-class film festival that has garnered international acclaim,” Executive Director Kenny Blank said.

To ensure accuracy, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival does not estimate attendance but instead determines official figures by conducting a manual count of theater seats for every screening. The festival compares the data with the number of tickets scanned at the auditorium doors to confirm as precise a seat count as possible.

“After 15 years of extraordinary growth, it is wonderful that we can boast the world’s largest Jewish film festival,” festival board President Steve Labovitz said. “As we move forward as an independent arts nonprofit, our priority will be to create a long-term vision for the organization which builds upon this milestone.”

San Francisco will get a chance to reclaim the crown during its 35th annual festival July 23 to Aug. 9.

The festival results marks San Francisco’s second recent loss to Atlanta. The newly signed head of school for the Epstein School, David Abusch-Magder, is coming to Sandy Springs from San Francisco’s Brandeis Hillel Day School.

The City by the Bay will just have to content itself with its three World Series championships the past five baseball seasons, helped by a playoff win over the Atlanta Braves in 2010 and the pitching of former Brave Tim Hudson in 2014, plus the 49ers’ comeback NFC Championship win over the Falcons after the 2012 season.

For what it’s worth, the official Atlanta metro area has about 1 million more people than the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro area, but if you look at the U.S. Census Bureau’s expanded combined statistical areas, San Francisco has an edge of 2.3 million people. If you look just as Jewish populations, the San Francisco area is believed to have more than twice as many Jews as the Atlanta area.