The History of the Palm Springs International Film Festival

Palm Springs Life Magazine published a wonderful feature on the history of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. From its founding by Mayor Sonny Bono to how it became the star-studded fundraising powerhouse it is today, take a trip down 34 years of memory lane. 

Festival Chairman Harold Matzner told Palm Springs Life: 

“This awards gala has grown from a little, tiny event for 200 when I got it to 2,400 that grosses $2.4 million to $2.5 million. The 12 billion media impressions the gala and festival generate are a powerful force in the economic life of the city. The festival itself attracts 135,000 people, and its ticket sales are in the area of $2 million. We have an artistic director, Lili Rodriguez, who’s outstanding.

Our job is to generate press and strengthen branding and imagery for the city of Palm Springs, to bring glamour to the city, which we certainly have done. Nothing attracts attention and opens doors like this level of celebrity. Nothing.”

Representative Mary Bono, Sonny’s wife said “Sonny would be enormously proud of the gala. I think he’d be saying, ‘I told you so.’”


📷 Alfre Woodard, Harold Matzner, and 2014 Breakthrough Performance Award honoree Lupita Nyong’o. Getty Images via Palm Springs Life.