Hollywood stars for Harrogate - new festival planned

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A-list movie stars will descend on Harrogate next summer when a massive new global film festival is launched in the town, writes Weekend Editor Graham Chalmers.

The Harrogate Advertiser can reveal details of thetown’s massive new film festival which is the brainchild of Stephen Brown, a veteran businessman in the entertainment industry, who returned to Harrogate from the States just a few months ago.

The festival will be hosted at the Harrogate International Centre, with major film studios attending the event.Organisers are remaining tight lipped on confirmed names for the festival, but the names of major Hollywood stars are being bandied about.

Mr Brown said: “My ambition is to bring Hollywood to Harrogate. It’s called in the UK the ‘Jewel of the North’ and is such a unique town and has the right kind of high quality restaurants hotels and spas that make it the ideal location for an exclusive film festival. A large portion of the attendees are expected to be from the American film industry.

“Even though the festival is in its early stages, the reaction from both the local community and the wider Yorkshire region has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s validated my research into Harrogate as the right destination for this kind of event. And it’s reconfirmed my decision to move ahead with the festival in this town.”

Caroline Bayliss, board member of the new tourist organisation Visit Harrogate, said: “This is great news for Harrogate. It will put the global spotlight on Harrogate.

“It’s such a fantastic profile for the town to be associated with the glamour, exclusivity and vibrancy of a film festival usually reserved for locations like Cannes. “It will be an amazing plus for the town’s economy, with several million pounds expected to be generated for businesses in the district.”

Hotels, retailers, restaurateurs, as well as the Harrogate International Centre itself, are expected to benefit.

Mr Brown lived in Harrogate until the age of 16 when his parents emigrated to Canada. Mr Brown went into the entertainment industry.

He founded a company called Vidnet that became one of the world’s top entertainment sites, streaming over 4.5 million videos monthly and providing content to such companies as Microsoft, Disney, Lycos and Alta Vista.

It was at Vidnet that he built industry alliances with entertainment giants Sony Music, Warner Bros and EMI Capital. The company went public on the NASDAQ, reaching a market cap of over $400M.

The festival will be attended by film industry professionals at the week-long event from August 1, 2013, culminating in a red-carpet awards ceremony.

It’s expected there will be a few screenings for the general public, and a chance for Harrogate to get involved.

Di Burton of Cicada Communications said: “We’re delighted Stephen has chosen Harrogate as a location for such an exciting event.

“The whole event is clearly wonderful news for 2013 and the opportunities and potential it will bring to our local economy and Harrogate’s profile are to be warmly welcomed.”