By Kenny Blank, Steve Labovitz, Rabbi Brad Levenberg, Dov Wilker and Greg Averbuch

With the 17th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival just around the corner, we want to take this opportunity to share some changes planned for 2017.

The upcoming festival, Jan. 24 to Feb. 15, promises perhaps our finest crop of films ever: 55 feature films and 20 shorts, representing 24 countries and spanning a spectrum of genres from romance, comedy, thriller and drama to art-house and family-friendly fare, as well as documentaries.

AJFF is a hot-ticket event, and we are committed to growing the festival and ensuring greater access to our amazing movies for everyone, including new audiences of all faiths and backgrounds.

New in 2017, AJFF will offer film screenings on Saturday afternoons. This change is prompted by longtime requests from festivalgoers to expand programming to more convenient times. For many, weekends are the only time they can attend the film festival. This change also affords more options for parents to share AJFF with their families.

AJFF believes in inclusivity, using the power of film to break down religious, racial and cultural barriers to inspire new levels of understanding. Thus, the introduction of Saturday afternoon screenings is consistent with our mission to serve the broader community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, regardless of affiliation.

A recent Pew research study shows that Jews increasingly connect and identify with their Jewishness through cultural expression. The introduction of Shabbat programming aligns with other Jewish institutions, including the Marcus Jewish Community Center and Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, as well as other Jewish film festivals around the world.

Our commitment to observant audiences, of course, remains strong. Films showing on Saturday afternoons will also screen at other times during the festival. AJFF will continue to refrain from programming on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings in an effort not to conflict with traditional Shabbat activities.

There are other steps we’ve taken to improve access. The 2017 AJFF includes more than 200 screenings, with repeat screenings of more in-demand films than ever before. And we’re introducing a favorite new theater location to the mix: Regal Perimeter Pointe Stadium 10.

The film lineup will be officially unveiled Friday, Jan. 6. Tickets become available Wednesday, Jan. 18. We’ve moved these dates closer to the start of the festival, making it easier to pick screenings that best fit your busy schedule.

We hope these changes will encourage a diversity of Atlanta to participate in this Jewish cultural experience.

Together, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and founder and partner American Jewish Committee have watched with pride as this annual celebration has grown into a treasured community asset. It is a pride we share with you, our loyal and generous audience, volunteers and supporters, who have fueled this amazing phenomenon.

Thank you as always for your support and commitment to a vibrant Jewish community.

We look forward to seeing you at the movies.

Kenny Blank is the AJFF executive director. Steve Labovitz is the AJFF board president. Rabbi Brad Levenberg is on the AJFF board of directors. Dov Wilker is the AJC Atlanta executive director. Greg Averbuch is the AJC Atlanta board president.