Stanley Film Festival Splits With DFS; Gives Up the Ghost for 2016 Fest

Is the Stanley Hotel giving up the ghost on its film festival? For the past three years, the haunted landmark raised cinematic spirits with the Stanley Film Festival. But the traditional April fest has been put on hold for 2016, and Stanley owner John Cullen has parted ways with the Denver Film Society, which had helped bring Cullen's initial concept for a horror fest to life.

The DFS has produced the state’s biggest film festival, the Denver Film Festival, for 38 years, along with such prestigious niche festivals as the LGBT-themed Cinema Q and the expanding CineLatino. The DFS-produced Stanley Film Festival was another winner, with the world-renowned Landon Zakheim providing programming that made the festival frighteningly better than dozens of other horror tributes around the world. But word came down last week that the DFS will no longer be involved in the horror fest, which will not be held in 2016.

“As a staff, we are proud of the role we played in helping create the foundation for the Stanley Film Festival over the last two years,” says JoAnna Cintron, DFS marketing and communications manager. “Although we will no longer be producing or presenting this festival, nor do we have a role in the planned Stanley Film Center, we look forward to watching the hotel grow and deliver unique entertainment and education within the genre.”

The Stanley Film Center is part of Cullen's grand plan. Late last year the Colorado Office of Economic Development announced that it was awarding the hotel $11.6 million to help build a massive film center and archive — part of a grant made to a pitch from northern Colorado entities that, along with a grant to the National Western Stock Show, will be the last awarded under the state's Regional Tourism Act. The center's goal is to provide a year-round horror experience that will reflect the hotel's role in The Shining, Stephen King’s 1977 novel about a haunted hotel that became a major movie. An all-star board of directors that includes filmmaker Mick Garris and actor Elijah Wood has been named for the center, but other funds for the project hinge on the festival's continuation.
The following statement materialized on the festival’s website on January 28 — around the time that ticket prices and other information for the April festival would have been announced:
We are calling on our friends, partners and creative thinkers from around the world to help us define our vision. This year from April 20-22, instead of the standard film festival, we will be hosting a special think-tank symposium and creative session kick-off for this mission. This special 3-day event will be our chance to collect ideas and feedback from those who have supported us over the past year as well as an opportunity to capture new perspectives. The outcome is simple: to create a Film Center and Festival that will exceed the expectations of the industry, and of our dedicated fans.

While this year’s event is limited to film ambassadors and planners, the festival will return as a bigger and better public celebration of the horror film genre in April 2017.
That statement is the first message from the festival's new director, Frederic Lahey, formerly the head of the Colorado Film School. “I am honored to serve the many fans of the Stanley Film Festival and look forward to partnering with industry-leading filmmakers, production companies, distributors, programmers and festival organizers to bring the best in horror to Estes Park in 2017," he says in a follow-up statement to Westword. "In addition to the symposium mentioned above, we plan to create a public 'dreamcatcher' or 'nightmare catcher' portal for public comments, hopes, suggestions and ideas that we can incorporate into the Stanley Film Center and the Stanley Film Festival. Please look for it in late February.”
Will fans come back to the Stanley in 2017? It's likely, since the fright-film faithful have been known to wait patiently for sequels to their favorite screamfests, and the 2015 incarnation of the Stanley Film Festival was the best yet.

For now, though, horror fans can focus on the Mile High Horror Film Festival and the Telluride Horror Show, which have a new opportunity to grow their brands while the Stanley Film Festival regroups for 2017. 

For more information on the Stanley Film Festival, go to