ORINDA — Starting this evening, thousands of film enthusiasts will descend on this quiet suburb's landmark art deco movie theater — and the city is ready to welcome them.
The California Independent Film Festival is expected to draw about 5,000 visitors to the Orinda Theatre over the course of its four-day run.
"We are very enthused about the influx of visitors to Orinda and the accompanying excitement," City Manager Janet Keeter said. "The theater gets great exposure, the surrounding businesses can capitalize on the foot traffic in downtown and the film festival has a perfect venue to celebrate (the) festival."
Festival organizers announced in August they would move from Livermore to Orinda.
Since then, they have held two special film screenings in Orinda — with appearances by Hollywood stars — to promote the main event.
The city has been coordinating event logistics with festival organizers, including working up a map to help out-of-towners navigate the city's downtown, Keeter said.
Orinda is no stranger to large events. Keeter said the city's annual Fourth of July parade always draws a crowd, mostly from surrounding communities.
The film festival will bring a much wider audience to downtown Orinda. That will give a much-needed boost to local businesses as theatergoers shop and dine in nearby stores and restaurants, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Candy Kattenburg said.
In addition to the economic boost, the festival is also a source of civic pride, Kattenburg said.
"I think that old theater is like a great Grand Am," she said. "She sits so proudly in downtown Orinda, how great that we get a chance to really show her off."
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 169, which has been protesting outside the theater for nearly a year, plans to continue those activities this weekend, union representative Jason Mottley said. The group has been a frequent presence outside the theater since last May, when the facility's new owners opted not to rehire two union-represented projectionists.
The union's goal this weekend is not to intimidate festival attendees but to make them aware of the labor dispute, Mottley said.
But Tom Peterson, who operates the Orinda Theatre along with his business partner, Jim Sheehan, said the union's decision to protest is "unfortunate" because it hurts the nonprofit film festival, not theater management.
Beau Behan, the festival's program director, declined to comment on the union.
Orinda police Chief Jeff Jennings said he has met with representatives from the union and the owners and doesn't anticipate any problems.
"We're not going to have a police presence more than what we have in the city on a normal day," he said, "and if we need extra resources we'll call them in."
Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.