Glasgow film festival is box office hit

Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera The classic silent movie Phantom of the Opera brought the curtain down on the film festival

It was rather apt on the night The Artist swept the boards at the Oscars, to be in a packed hall in Glasgow, watching the 1925 classic Phantom of the Opera.

If Lon Chaney alone couldn't raise the hairs on the back of your neck, the resounding Wurtlizer organ accompaniment by David Gray certainly did.

And this was just one of a number of choices for discerning film fans on the closing day of the Glasgow Film Festival.

Also packed to the gunnels was a rare screening of Big Banana Feet at the GFT, the last remaining copy of the documentary about Billy Connolly's 1975 tour of Ireland, having been discovered in an American archive.

Or you could have dropped in to hear esteemed French film director Bertrand Tavernier talk about locating his sci-fi thriller Death Watch in Glasgow in 1980, preceded by a screening of the film.

And that's not forgetting the official closing gala - the premiere of the heart-warming film Le Havre, attended by its Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki.

That variety of choice - of both films and venue - must play some part in the ongoing success of the Glasgow Film Festival, which yesterday announced that this year's box office was up again, with close to 35,000 admissions across the eleven day festival.

That's a dramatic increase on the 6,000 who came along in 2005, the first year of the festival. It may be one of the newest film festivals - in a very crowded marketplace - but the GFF is clearly giving more established festivals a run for their money.

Youthful audience

It's not flash - for many, that's part of the appeal - and directors Allan Hunter and Allison Gardner use existing film strands to bolster their programme.

That raises the game for Frightfest, the Glasgow Music and Film Festival and newcomers, the Southside Film festival who programmed the aforementioned Phantom of the Opera.

The Glasgow Youth Film Festival, who kick started events at the beginning of February, also did themselves proud, with a very timely gala screening of The Muppets.

There's a deliberate avoidance of celebrity culture - although no one complains if they drop in - so the recognisable faces tend to be jobbing actors, directors and screen writers, there to celebrate their craft, rather than get their photos in the paper.

That down to earth approach is reflected in the opening night event - which includes a ticket for the aftershow party as well as the film.

Of course, it's hard to consider the ongoing success of the Glasgow Film Festival without comparing it to the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

It has struggled over the last couple of years to attract top-name films and the sort of younger film fans who're flocking to the Glasgow event.

Under a new director - Chris Fujiwara - it's also taking a new direction and there's much to learn from Glasgow where cheap tickets and a strong community approach have helped them cultivate a growing youthful audience.

Glasgow is also using its limited resources wisely, drawing on the network of existing film events.

But there is an enormous cross over between the two festivals - in terms of staff and films - and a real desire to see both festivals flourish, for the sake of the indigenous industry and everyone who loves a good film.

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