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L.A.'s First Festival Party

Even an elephant was on hand to celebrate Filmex's launch in 1971.

June 16, 2002

The following is a Nov. 5, 1971, news story by Times staff writer Kevin Thomas on the opening night of the first Los Angeles International Film Exposition, more popularly known as Filmex.

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Students, starlets, hippies and vintage Hollywood celebrities rubbed shoulders at Thursday night's circus-like opening of the first Los Angeles International Film Exposition at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

For the first time, Los Angeles, the traditional center of the American motion-picture industry, is having a major film festival. Appropriately it is being in held in what is probably the most famous of all Hollywood tourist attractions.

A tightrope walker, a fire-eater and a baby elephant greeted the arriving guests, attired in everything from satin to blue jeans.

The 10-day event, launched with the West Coast premiere of "The Last Picture Show," attracted both the old Hollywood and the new. Groucho Marx and silent star Leatrice Joy were there, and so was Ryan O'Neal. Andy Warhol was also there with his superstar Candy Darling.

Filmex, short for Los Angeles International Film Exposition, is budgeted at $120,000 and was launched with $60,000 in private donations. As of Thursday evening, a festival official reported $22,000 in ticket sales.

The exposition is Hollywood's formal recognition that film is both art and entertainment, timeless and international in scope.

The noncompetitive festival, which consists of 45 individual events to be held both at Grauman's and the County Art Museum, will present 16 pictures from 12 countries in their West Coast premieres. Most of these films have been previewed by the press, and they are of consistently high quality--unusual for a film festival.

Filmex will also honor Hollywood's own often overlooked artistic heritage with a special series of classic movies, which will be made available to Los Angeles schoolchildren free of charge. Even the once lowly regarded but highly influential B movie will be given its due.

A nonprofit undertaking by veteran director George Cukor, Filmex is co-sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Harold Lloyd Foundation and the film schools of UCLA, USC and CalArts.

"Filmex is a happy mix of the old and the new," said Cukor. "It's something for everybody, but above all we hope it offers theatrical excitement and joy. I think we can all use some of that nowadays."

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