SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — This year's edition of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was unlike any other.
For the past 11 days, folks have been able to enjoy films for free from the comfort of their cars.
Organizers aimed to bring safely people together while providing a sense of inspiration for an industry hit hard by the pandemic.
“People will look at this festival as a bridge, a transition that was needed to remind people that life goes on,” SBIFF executive director Roger Durling said.
Even though A-list actors and actresses — Bill Murray, Carey Mulligan, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amanda Seyfried, etc. — accepted awards virtually, most tributes sold-out each night.
During the day, popularity picked up for drive-in film viewings.
“It took a while for people to understand how bright the screen was and get accustomed to the idea of being outside in the middle of a day watching a movie,” Durling said.
Yet, most savored the scenic experience of watching movies on massive LED screens by the beach.
Nancy Keller attended three films throughout the festival.
“Look around, there's the ocean, beach, islands and palm trees,” she said. “Here we are, enjoying a movie. This is magnificent.”
“It cannot get more iconic than Santa Barbara by the ocean and watching movies,” Durling said.
Cynthia Kawasaki watched her first film at the festival with family and friends.
“It's a really creative solution and it makes people feel like there is some sense of normality,” she said. “Because the community has been through a lot the last year plus."
Many moviegoers also enjoyed watching festival films online for $10.
“It gives you so much more access to the films and I absolutely love that,” Keller concluded. “I hope they'll keep providing some kind of thing like that."
Looking ahead, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival plans on being back inside movie theaters in 2022.