“Hobo Ken” and his film festival is settling down in Middletown for the next year at least — and, he hopes, forever.
“The hobo will stop here,” Ken Del Vecchio, head of the Hoboken International Film Festival, said Tuesday at a well-attended announcement of the festival’s move to Middletown’s Paramount Theatre. “I want to be here forever with the Hoboken International Film Festival. That’s our plans.”
The festival started in Teaneck eight years ago; in 2012, it was held in a theater in Jersey City run by Nelson Page, who also runs the Paramount. This theater was flooded by Superstorm Sandy, and Page told Del Vecchio about the Paramount.
“Nelson, you shortchanged the place,” Del Vecchio recalled saying the first time he visited. “This is the most beautiful theater I’ve been in in my whole life.”
Del Vecchio filmed his latest movie, the horror film “Captured Hearts,” largely at the Paramount in early January; this is when he started to consider moving the festival here. Now, it will be — which, local officials hope, will draw thousands of people to the area for the weeklong festival, boosting local businesses and introducing the Hudson Valley to new visitors.
“We hope this is just the year we’re planting roots here at the Paramount Theatre … (and) that those roots will grow into a permanent home for the festival,” said Mayor Joe DeStefano.
In recent years, the festival has drawn numerous stars, and 1,500 submissions from all over the world, of which about 90 are accepted. This year, comedian and voiceover actor Gilbert Gottfried is hosting. The last one drew about 15,000 attendees.
“I think it’s good, good for the community, good for the downtown area,” said Ross Pupo, who works at Stella’s Cafe, a couple doors down from the theater. “It’ll fill the parking spaces.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who had urged Del Vecchio to move the festival here, said that it is up to the Hudson Valley to make sure the festival is a success so it comes back for years to come.
“We’re going to show the world that New York State has the best Orange County in show business,” said Schumer.
Del Vecchio said that the festival’s name is a “brand name;” it hasn’t been in Hoboken much of its existence, and he said, to laughter from the audience, that it is a portmaneau of “Hobo Ken,” since some people think he’s a bum. He said he might considering changing it down the road, though.
The theater recently upgraded to digital projection equipment with a $150,000 grant from the county. Del Vecchio praised the city, which owns the theater, and the county, for their attention to it, and for understanding the role the arts play in attracting people and business.
“I found that Joe DeStefano and (County Executive) Ed Diana really understand this,” he said. “They get it.”