BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
The City of Middletown’s loss could become Rockland County’s gain as filmmaker and Hoboken Film Festival producer Kenneth Del Vecchio looks to find a new host for his acclaimed weeklong annual film bonanza.
Billed by Fox as “one of the 10 biggest” film festivals in the world, the event has attracted stars such as Robert Loggia, Danny Aiello, Jonathan Silverman, Jane Seymour, Billy Dee Williams and Eric Roberts in recent years, while bringing up to 15,000 visitors annually and millions of dollars in economic activity to the downtown center of Middletown. The festival is known for attracting a diverse array of films and has premiered several “National Lampoons” productions.
Del Vecchio also has been chairman of the rejuvenated Paramount Theater in Middletown, host of the festival’s main events.Welcomed with open arms in 2013 following the destruction of Hoboken by Hurricane Sandy, the political leaders of Middletown had come to a standstill regarding the future of the festival, with the city claiming it will make more money taking the theatre in “another direction.” It’s a decision Del Vecchio calls “a mammoth blunder.”
He’s not worried, however. Del Veccchio says there are many communities interested in the festival and he sees Rockland County as a particularly attractive destination. Del Vecchio, who also is a practicing attorney, is working with some well-known Rockland lawyers-Judge Scott Ugell, Larry Weissman and Carol Barbash-on another film project at this time, so the county was already on his radar.
He touts his resume as a Hudson Valley product who has brought business back to the area as one reason to believe in the festival’s promise. Said Del Vecchio, “Without a doubt I’ve made more movies in the New York/New Jersey [Hudson Valley region] in the past 20 years than anyone.” Over 30 in all.
Weissman said the festival would be a boon for Rockland because, “It’s what we don’t have.” While the county has at least three other notable film festivals, none has the potential drawing power of the Hoboken International.
Del Vecchio said he likes to work with local organizations and integrate them into his festival. He also tends to keep his other film operations close to the festival’s home base. Rockland has become a major staging ground for the film industry in recent years and the placement of the Hoboken festival would only cement the county’s growing place in the industry, Del Vecchio noted. He said in order to qualify as a bidder for the project the host town must put up a $40,000 sponsor fee and the host county a $20,000 fee. That is an investment the sponsors will see come back in spades, the mogul promises.
Many towns in Rockland have something to offer the festival. Ramapo has the stadium and the historic Lafayette Theater, similar in appearance and style to the Paramount Theater in Middletown, while Clarkstown has mainstream major cinema venues, Nyack has a thriving arts scene and North Rockland boasts Garner Arts and a rustic charm. For those interested in learning more, Del Vecchio suggests Rocklanders watch a highlight reel of the Hoboken International Film Festival at http://www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com.
Only in his early 40s, Del Vecchio has been a prolific creative force in several industries. He has written, produced and starred in dozens of films, penned three novels abd authored several best-selling legal manuals explaining the meaning of state penal codes all while working as an attorney and a former judge. He also has found time to run for political office, earning 43 percent of the vote in this year’s District 18 GOP primary. He proclaimed himself “the first Congressional candidate to endorse Donald Trump.”