The CEO of Alamo Drafthouse and co-founder of Fantastic Fest, has responded to the multiple claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment that have plagued this year's festival.
Fantastic Fest has been embroiled in scandal this year, following a series of revelations about festival co-founder and Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League, Ain't It Cool News founder and Fantastic Fest co-founder Harry Knowles, and former Alamo Drafthouse employee Devin Faraci.
Faraci parted ways with Alamo in 2016 after a sexual assault allegation was made public, but was apparently quietly rehired by League soon after. When it was revealed that Faraci was still working for Alamo, Todd Brown resigned as director of international programming for the festival, and the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri pulled out of the festival. Knowles didn't attend the festival, and Ain't It Cool News dropped out as a sponsor, amid allegations that Knowles sexually assaulted a woman on several occasions at Alamo Drafthouse events. Additionally, the report claims that the woman, a longtime friend of Tim and Karrie League, informed the pair about the incidents and were told to just try to avoid Knowles. League co-founded Fantastic Fest with Knowles a few years afterward, in 2005. Several AICN contributors have quit the website in the wake of the allegations. Knowles has "categorically" denied them. At least one other former Alamo Drafthouse employee has come forward with sexual harassment allegations.
The festival this year has sparked additional controversies as well, including a secret screening of an unreleased Ed Wood softcore pornographic comedy that some attendees said should have come with a content advisory, and a violent live performance during the screening of The Square that made attendees uncomfortable.
In response to everything that's happened over the last few weeks, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League has issued a statement, saying that the festival is forming a new board of directors run by Kristen Bell to provide the best, most open and inclusive environment for this unique film community." Read League's full statement below:
I've been reflecting on twenty years of decisions as a business owner. In the early days, Karrie and I conferred on all tough decisions, and we always tried to do the right thing. To this day, the core value of the company is just that, the simple principle to always "do the right thing." Recent perspective has made it clear that we didn't always do the right thing, despite what we thought were good intentions. To the women we have let down, Karrie and I both sincerely apologize.
We're now a big company with over 4,500 employees. We have over a million guests come through our doors every month. Now we have a great HR team and are a vastly better company than we were in the mom and pop days.
I'm currently writing this update from a hotel room in Kansas City. As many of you know, I decided to skip Fantastic Fest this year. I feel that the most important thing I can do right now is to travel to all of our theaters, talk with our staff and listen. I've hosted 12 sessions so far and there are many more scheduled for the next three weeks all over the country. As much as I'd like to be at the event, I need to be with our staff and lead a positive path forward for the company.
On the festival front, in light of recent events and feedback we have gotten over the last few days, we have taken some first steps on the path to listening and ensuring that we create a safe, inclusive environment for our staff at both the theater and the festival as well as the community at large. I'll be sharing more about this in the days and weeks to come.
Moving forward, we have severed all ties with Harry Knowles and he is no longer affiliated with the company in any capacity. We are striving to better respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment, and will take actions so those who work at the theater or attend as a guest are not made to feel unsafe.
The festival is actively working on building out a new Board of Directors whose focus will be to further enhance and refine the experience of the festival; nurture and provide more opportunities for young genre filmmakers; and provide the best, most open and inclusive environment for this unique film community. This board will be run by the festival's Executive Director, Kristen Bell, and should be finalized and announced shortly.
The festival team has spent the last five days talking to badgeholders and gathering feedback on ways the festival can be better. We've made real-time changes to the festival this year and will also be sending out a post-event survey to all badgeholders to collect further feedback on how we should improve and grow. We greatly appreciate all the feedback we have received so far, both positive and negative, as it continues to give us a wider, better perspective on the future of the festival.
At the festival and at the theater, we are committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all of our staff and guests, and I am committed to the work ahead to ensure that goal.