By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The man behind the Maryland Film Festival is retiring.

Jed Dietz is stepping down after a long 20-year run. The festival began in 1999.

“We hoped people would show up and ‘lo and behold people in Baltimore not only showed up but are often identified as the best audiences filmmakers have ever had,” said Dietz, the founding director of the festival.

Filmmakers from all over the world have come to Baltimore and movie lovers have turned out by the thousands. Last year, a record 12,000 people attended the festival.

“The festival is growing, you can see it in our numbers, we brought a whole new cultural thing to Baltimore, a part of the film culture that had never played Baltimore,” said Dietz.

Dietz championed the restoration of the historic Parkway Theatre at North Avenue and Charles St.

It was built in 1915 and has become a festival hub.

“It’s a jewel, I don’t know another one of this era, a pure movie theater anywhere else in the world. We raised $18 million and many people helped,” Dietz said.

Dietz plans to spend more time with his wife and family, he’ll continue as a consultant to the festival and promote the art form he loves.

“I hope all the audience embraces this art form and uses it for their own growth and making their life better,” Dietz said.

Sandra L. Gibson has been named the film festival’s interim director.

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