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Last weekend's Beaufort International Film Festival was attended by thousands, including some travelers who came to Beaufort specifically for the event, according to preliminary results of a survey of festival-goers.
The event once again drew record attendance, with about 7,600 people, organizers say. That beat last year's crowd of just less than 7,000, Beaufort Film Society president Ron Tucker said.
Films had an average attendance of 170 per screening, with about 300 watching the anniversary showing of "Radio."
The University of South Carolina Beaufort Performing Arts Center was packed for "Death by China," "A Sister's Call," "Besa: The Promise" and "Granny's Got Game," Tucker said.
Initial results of a survey performed by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce indicate 71 percent of respondents would not have visited Beaufort at this time if it were not for the festival, according to Robb Wells, director of the chamber's tourism division.
Additionally, 87 percent said the festival, which ran Wednesday through Saturday, was "influential" or "very influential" in their decision to come to the area, and 80 percent said it was the primary reason they came.
"So does the film festival have a place in Beaufort?" Wells said. "You're dadgum right."
The number of survey respondents was not available Tuesday afternoon.
The survey is part of a push by the chamber to track more information about who attends local festivals and events, and why.
Most of the survey participants -- 85 percent -- said they ate out, with 25 percent spending $25 to $49 a day in restaurants and another 20 percent spending $50 to $74.
The visitors said they went to the beach, art galleries and antique shops, and a few said they kayaked and played tennis, Wells said.
"What I glean from this research is people need to look at the film festival as more than a local event," Wells said.
About 30 percent of the out-of-towners stayed for four days. Most of them stayed at hotels or motels, Wells said, and spent an average of $149 a night.
Most hotels reported slightly higher occupancy rates during the festival than for the same time period last year. The two largest hotels had a 10-percent increase, Wells said. He didn't know how many hotel guests were there for the festival.
City Loft Hotel was 55 percent full Wednesday, but completely booked Thursday, Friday and Saturday; last year, only the Saturday of the festival was full. However, general manager Stephanie Fairbanks said that change could be because Valentine's Day fell on Thursday, and the hotel offered a special.
Holiday Inn of Beaufort was at 70 percent occupancy over the four nights, up 10 percent from the previous year. Quality Inn had a similar rate, with 68.5 percent of rooms occupied this year.
There were no Parris Island Marine Corps Depot graduations this year or for the same period last year.
Tucker said the response from filmmakers attending was overwhelming, with many lauding the community's hospitality.
"We are overall happy with results and attendance, and people, Facebook-wise, inundated us with comments and thank-yous," he said.
- Beaufort film festival honors directors, actors, writers, Feb. 16, 2013
- 'Radio' director Mike Tollin to receive Excellence in Filmmaking honors from Beaufort Film Festival, Feb. 13, 2013
- Three days of films to follow opening Beaufort film festival celebration, Feb. 12, 2013
- Click! gallery of 7th annual Beaufort International Film Festival