BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Little Italy’s Open Air Film Fest has been canceled for 2018. The festival has happened every year since 1999 and became one of Baltimore’s summertime traditions.
The festival was recently placed under new management and according to the promotion center’s website, the expense and challenges were high and the event was unable to be properly planned.
The late John Pente first made the festival possible. A projector was put in his house in a third floor bedroom, a perfect 108 feet from the screen across the street. According to the website, after Pente died in 2010, his nephew Ray Lancelotta purchased the home and continued showing the films until he died in 2014. His children allowed the festival to continue after he passed.
“What’s happened over 20 years, as you can imagine for all volunteers, is that eventually things come to an end. Volunteers retire, go away,” financial supporter Vince Piscopo said.
Piscopo says new volunteers haven’t had time to get liability, permits and funding organized, and life has changed for the original organizer, Mary Ann Cricchio.
“Everybody seemed to enjoy it. It’s fun when it’s all working well. But when life changes for you, personally, when you retire or when you move on or whatever, you just can’t continue,” he said.
“It’s just a parking lot, but on Friday nights when it comes alive with people and music–people drinking wine and eating pizza, it feels so much more fun,” said Little Italy resident Andrew Watkins.
Some business owners aren’t ready to let the credits roll.
“So, we’re trying to work on it. I think we’re going to make it happen,” said Daniel Stewart, owner of Isabella’s, which is across the street.
Stewart hopes nearby Stratford University will take the reigns. A possibility–but also a huge undertaking.
“We’ve done it for all those years, now they have a blueprint. What they’re trying to do is take that blueprint and use it over there. transfer it over there.”
WJZ reached out to Stratford University to ask about their plans. So far, we haven’t heard back.
It’s not clear if the festival will return for 2019.
There are still plenty of other events hosted in Little Italy to pull in visitors, like the St. Leo’s Church Italian Festival, held June 2.