As film lovers begin flocking into downtown Mill Valley and San Rafael for the Mill Valley Film Festival tonight and over the next 10 days, attendees and local businesses have something new to celebrate. During the month of October, dozens of local businesses in each city are offering tailored promotions for anyone who presents an festival ticket stub.
"That's the Ticket," as the promotion is called, is a joint collaboration between festival organizers, the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce and the San Rafael Downtown Business Improvement District.
Jeromy Zajonc, Community Manager for MVFF, said the program was introduced to "create added value for everyone who buys a Mill Valley Film Festival ticket, help drive festival attendees to local businesses, and increase the overall sense of community during the festival."
Arts events are big business for local and regional economies. MVFF generates nearly $300,000 in audience spending and brings in over $100,000 in local and state tax revenue each year, according to a formula devised by the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for the Arts.
In downtown Mill Valley, restaurants and bars like Piazza D'Angelo or the fledgling Mill Valley Beerworks are sure to see an increase in business during the festival's 11-day run from moviegoers looking for a pre- or post-screening meal or drink. But Kathy Severson, chief executive of the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce, said That's the Ticket is intended to reach beyond the businesses with obvious connections to the festival.
"Our hope is to provide attractive promotional incentives that will encourage a major percentage of those attendees to enjoy the diversity of fabulous merchandise, food and services available in our city," she said.
With visitors from across the Bay Area flocking to Mill Valley and San Rafael during the fest, the promotion was created with a broad audience in mind, Severson said. Each business included in the program was asked to create a custom promotion or special offer.
To that end, the chamber itself is offering $25 off any first-time chamber membership, and those looking to promote their business can score 25 percent off a logo or business card design or $500 off Web site design from Phippen Design Group.
Janet Ryvin, owner of Miller Avenue clothing retailer Showroom, jumped at the change to participate in the promotion. Ryvin opened Showroom in March 2009, and was disappointed with the city's apparent lack of support for events that drive traffic to local retailers.
Ryvin created her own promotion last year for MVFF ticket holders, and said she is happy that the city now seems to be on board with creating mutually beneficial partnerships between retailers and the city's prestigious arts and culture events.
"It's in everyone's best interest to keep the city fresh and evolving," Ryvin said.
In addition to the 10 percent discount offered through That's the Ticket, which they're promoting on their Facebook page, Showroom is also planning a special event to coincide with the festival's Opening Night events tonight. Customers who visit the store tonight will receive 15 percent off storewide or $100 off an in-home wardrobe consultation.
In San Rafael, That's the Ticket's offers range from a free glass of wine or cup of Old World Spumoni ice cream at San Rafael Joe's to a 10 percent bump on any CD/MMDA over $50,000 (for new accounts only) at First Bank. Anyone looking to fill some blank wall space can find discounts on artwork at Art Works Downtown (10-20 percent off select works), Donna Seager Gallery (10 percent discount), and the Marin Arts Council's Ways of Seeing exhibit (10 percent off).
Participating businesses are no doubt hopeful that the promotion will bring in a much-needed boost in revenue. Marin's retail sector has taken an especially hard hit with the economic downturn of the past two years. Both in downtown Mill Valley and along San Rafael's Fourth St, empty storefronts abound.
But the tide may be turning. In Mill Valley, 142 Throckmorton regularly sells out performances by A-list acts like Robin Williams, and In the Woods productions has a varied lineup of live performers for every taste. And the downtown area will gain a buzzworthy new destination restaurant when Tyler Florence and Sammy Hagar's El Paseo opens later this year.
San Rafael's once-active live music scene is also getting a shot in the arm with the recent re-opening of George's on Fourth.
With admissions over 40,000, the Mill Valley Film Festival puts an 11-day spotlight on the county, bringing in high-profile artists and celebrities from the world of film. Honorees and special guests at the festival this year will include Sam Rockwell, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Julian Schnabel, Ed Norton, Annette Bening and James Franco.
"The Mill Valley Film Festival has a very positive impact on Mill Valley," Severson said. "It has established the city as an epicenter for local and international cinema arts and culture. It has also enhanced the economic vitality of the city with revenue from the festival and with residents and visitors enjoying our shops, restaurants and hotels."
As Mill Valley Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters put it, "The Mill Valley Film Festival is one of the city's finest achievements. It brings art and commerce, passion and poetry, celebrities and fans together."
For a full list of businesses participating in That's the Ticket and the specific discounts they're offering, visit the festival's Web site.