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New Allentown Film Festival to feature compelling filmmakers

from Lehigh Valley and around the world


ALLENTOWN, JANUARY 23, 2023 – A new Allentown festival that will present a fascinating mix of international, American, and Lehigh Valley films will premiere in April.


Organizers of the nonprofit Allentown Film Festival, who have been quietly working to establish the event over the past few months, announce that the festival will screen dozens of short and feature films, including several world premieres.


The two Civic Theatre venues – the historic Art Deco Nineteenth Street Theatre and the boutique Theatre514 across the street, in the heart of the city’s West End Theatre District – will be the primary locations, with screenings from April 14-16.


The Allentown Art Museum will show films on April 15 during the festival weekend, while the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center will kick off the festival with movies April 1. The festival will award cash prizes to the best entries in the Lehigh Valley Shorts categories.


Films from American and international filmmakers are being considered. Additionally, Lehigh Valley residents can submit films – from one to five minutes in length – in three categories: K-12 students, college students, and nonstudents.


“The goal is to identify and encourage compelling, thought-provoking independent films,” said festival director Alan Younkin. “The Allentown Film Festival will not only boost Lehigh Valley pride but also remind people in the Mid-Atlantic region that Allentown is a vibrant, much-closer-than-you-think arts mecca.”


Festival chief marketing officer Michael Schelp added that it’s time to hold a film festival in the city. “Allentown needs a film festival. According to FilmFreeway, the leading festival submissions website, Philadelphia has almost 40. Pittsburgh, 20. Even tiny Milford in the Poconos has the wonderful Black Bear Film Festival.”


“People have been talking about starting a film festival for years,” Civic Theatre artistic director William Sanders said. “We are thrilled to host what we hope will become a highly-anticipated annual tradition.”


“We’re going to put on a really fun show with VIP red-carpet parties, great films, engaging panel discussions, and a real sense of community,” Younkin said.


Younkin and Schelp, West End Allentown residents, co-chair the annual Art In The Park, a popular event which takes place in September in the city’s West Park.


A local film festival, large or small, can benefit a local economy, The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported in 2019.


“Today, film festivals operate more like micro economies,” the newspaper said. “They can make smaller cities boom by bringing in business, giving young people a reason to remain in the region, and developing a city’s national and international links.”


The festival has received more than 330 entries from filmmakers in over 40 countries and has accepted several dozen films so far. Categories are Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Short, and Best Music Video.


While there is an entry fee for those categories, there is no charge for 1-5 minute short film entries from the Lehigh Valley.


“Lehigh Valley filmmakers, please submit your short films,” Schelp said.


Entries must be submitted by establishing a free account at and uploading a film. Deadline for entries is March 1. Festival organizers continue to seek festival sponsors. Screening times and admission prices will be announced later.


Schelp and Younkin made the documentary film “BROKE(N)” about Allentown residents dealing with economic hardships that was shown at the Nineteenth Street Theatre in September. BROKE(N) was also selected in 16 film festivals, which inspired them to establish a film festival in Allentown.


“We learned how film festivals are run and how films are submitted. That prompted us to think how fun it would be to have one in Allentown,” Younkin said. Schelp said the festival can introduce Allentown and the Lehigh Valley to people unfamiliar with the region.


“Many of North America’s largest cities are less than a half-day’s drive from Allentown,” he said. “We want to spread the word – Allentown is a lot more than a Billy Joel song about post-industrial angst.”


The Allentown Film Festival logo features robust fonts that pay homage to the city’s industrial history. Capping the logo is the stepped profile of the iconic PPL Building, the windows of which echo the square sprocket holes of the film strip below in which “FILM FESTIVAL” is carved. A stylized Liberty Bell is concealed in the “A” of FESTIVAL, a reference to Allentown’s historic role in safeguarding the actual Liberty Bell during the American Revolutionary War when it was hidden from the British in a local church.


Allentown Film Festival details

April 1: Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, 522 W. Maple St.

April 14-16: Civic Theatre, 527 N. 19th St.

April 15: Allentown Art Museum, 31 N. Fifth St. @AllentownFilm

Facebook: Allentown Film Festival


How to enter: Lehigh Valley residents submit 1 to 5 minute shorts at no charge