Long before there was AFI Fest, there was Filmex -- the Los Angeles International Film Exposition.
"Filmex was, for many of us, the introduction to alternative film in Los Angeles," recalled producer Tom Pollock, who served as chairman of the board of trustees of Filmex in those early years.
The first Filmex was launched on Nov. 5, 1971, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with the premiere of "The Last Picture Show" and featured a circus-like opening night with a tightrope walker, a fire-eater and an elephant greeting the guests.
Pollock said the elephant was the brainchild of the late Gary Essert and the late Gary Abraham, who ran Filmex and were fondly referred to as "The Garys." "Filmex was a different kind of film festival," Pollock added. "You wouldn't see elephants at Sundance."
Filmex featured a 24-hour movie marathon at the El Rey Theatre one year. Snow globes were given away as favors in 1981. There was a special license plate on the second official vehicle of Filmex, used in 1985 for transporting prints and guests.
Director Alfred Hitchcock arrived for the premiere of his film "Family Plot" in 1976 driving a Universal Studios tour bus and was later seen dining with Jimmy Stewart and Hitchcock's wife, Alma.
By 1987, Filmex had morphed into AFI Fest, which in 1990 honored the Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, for his film "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" He returned to be honored in 2004 for "Bad Education."