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True/False film fest boosts economy in unexpected way

This weekend, the city of Columbia will transform into a mecca for documentary filmgoers from all over the world who come to town for the True/False Film Festival.

“There’s people from all around Columbia, all walks of life,” said festival co-founder David Wilson. “They’ll all come together and take part in watching these movies this weekend.”

When the festival began 13 years ago, Wilson said organizers sold about 4,400 tickets.

This year, he expects to have at least 50,000 ticket holders in the city.

With all the extra people, he and event organizers work to prevent any problems from coming up when the house lights go down.

“We work arm in arm with the Columbia Police Department and the university police department to make sure everyone is safe,” he said. “We work with them to make sure certain screenings, certain moments when we know there’s going to be more people, they’re there watching to help us out.”

Wilson said there will also be patrols at different after parties to make sure there aren’t any issues.

But all in all, Wilson says, the filmgoers are peaceful bunch and are more inclined to catch a bite between shows than cause any problems.

Columbia business owners agree that catching a bite’ is where most of the economic boom of the weekend comes from because the people who buy the tickets are there to see movies and not do much shopping.

“So they’re not shopping the retail shops as many as people think,” said Kent Anderson, the owner at Kent’s on Broadway. “They do a lot of the restaurants because you have to eat in between those types of things. So it is a boost for the economy but not always for the gift stores.”

Other store owners say they see new customers, but they’re not really making sales.

“The big movie buffs, they’ll stop and get food and they’re on to their next movie,” said Jennifer Pestle, a manager at Cha Boutique. “We definitely get a lot more people in town but not as big saleswise.”

There will be a lot more people so while foot traffic is inevitable, so are other traffic headaches. So the city is offering free bus routes through Como Connect this weekend. Festivalgoers won’t need an ID or pass to use the service and it’ll take them right to any venue they need to go to.

Find a full schedule of True/False events here.

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